Coming to University is a daunting experience for most people. You’re probably full of questions and worries: am I going to make new friends? Will I do well on my course? And how on Earth do you operate a washing machine? But if you’re a first-generation student (neither of your parents have gone to university and got a degree) like I was, you may have another layer of worries on top of that: so what exactly is a lecture? What am I supposed to do when I don’t have stuff timetabled? Am I really going to be left completely to my own devices?
For me, without any family members to ask advice, I found going to university a really uncertain experience. I always had this feeling that all my peers just had a sense of where they were headed which I didn’t. In this blog post, I’ve tried to address some of the biggest fears I had before joining York and what I wish I’d known before coming here!
Being Away From Home Can Be Fun!
For me, the biggest shock was the independence, both in my studies and day-to-day life. I must admit, at first I found this scary, having to suddenly make so many more decisions and be so much more responsible for my day. But quite quickly after I settled in, I found it liberating — no teachers nagging for homework and no one at home nagging for laundry!
I’ve thrived being self-sufficient at York and though the independence might seem scary, I found it’s really quite fun!
Most new students’ biggest concern is making new friends, and I know for me it was certainly a big one.
Home for me is a 4-hour drive from York, so just going back to see my friends and family at a stones-throw wasn’t really an option. However, I can’t stress enough how university is the place where you can truly find your people — through your flat, your course and your societies. You will have so many opportunities to make firm friends.
For me and many others, university is the first time I was surrounded by like-minded, driven people of the same age and with shared interests. This is a potent combination for opportunities and experiences which are difficult to get elsewhere. For instance, at York, I’ve become a committee member for the sailing and mountaineering societies. I regularly engage in sports I’d never have the chance to otherwise, and I’m among great friends along the way.
My only advice is to throw yourself into everything — the more you say yes to, the more people you meet!
The other major concern I had coming to university was accommodation. There are so many choices to make, and it can be quite overwhelming in picking your home for the next year. Shared bathroom or en-suite? Catered or self-catered? West Campus or East?
I was very nervous about how my room would be, but if there’s one bit of advice I can give to you — it’s just a room! My first choice of room was a self-catered en-suite in Alcuin, and I ended up with my fifth choice of catered, shared bathroom in James, but I couldn’t have been happier! I found that while at university my day was so busy with studying, sports, going to societies (and maybe a little bit of partying), my room was just somewhere to put my head down at night. Whatever college you end up in, you’ll have the same access to sports, community activities and support, and your college experience is just what you make of it!
Overall, being a first-generation student was a lot scarier before I came to York than while I was here. The University has a great support page to help you find you apply and find your feet at York as a first-generation student. From my experience though, university is one giant opportunity. And if you throw yourself into it, your first year at York can be the time of your life!
Read more stories from first-generation students.