Making the big decision to go to uni is scary enough as it is, but deciding to go when you don’t really know what to expect? Now that’s scary. Of course, it’s general knowledge that uni is all about studying for a degree, except what even is that? Or what does it mean to stay in student housing on campus… off campus? Being a first-generation student not only means that you’re the first in your family to go to a university, it also means you’re going to have a lot more questions that you want answered. So, here’s my experience of being a first-generation fresher and a little bit of advice that might help you.
What did I feel most anxious about as a first-generation student?
My biggest fear when it came to uni was what work I’d be doing. It was not only something I was worried about, but it was also something that my parents and friends had absolutely no advice on. I had no idea if I was going be drowning in essays and research. It was all very overwhelming.
Thing is, it turns out most other freshers on your course are in the same position. Workload varies from course to course, so even if your friends and family had information on what work is like at uni, it probably wouldn’t be exactly what you were looking for. In general, you’re mostly given pre-readings and essays at the end of each term/module. The easiest way to manage it and not drown is by doing your pre-readings earlier in the week and starting essays around 2 weeks before the deadline. I found this out the hard way at about 2AM in the morning.
Another big fear was making friends. I’d say overall it’s the biggest fear for most prospective and first year students. First, you worry about meeting your flatmates and if they’ll like you. Then, it’s ‘will I make friends on my course?’, ‘What about societies?’ Well, luckily, making friends is one of the easier things to manage.
If you’re in on-campus accommodation or housed with other students, then it’s likely your first friends will be your flatmates. But don’t worry if you don’t get along with them, there’s plenty of people on your course too. I met a lot of my friends on my course, and it really helps that we all have similar interests. A lot of my friends that I’ve made also are a part of the same societies as me, so that’s another thing that helped us become friends.
During my first term at uni, I also felt extremely homesick. Living a good few hours from home meant I couldn’t visit easily. I called my parents a lot – but it could only help so much. I hadn’t been told by anyone that I would feel that homesick and wished I had been given some advice on it, so here’s a tip from me to you: Friends are a great way to deal with homesickness as they sort of become your second family. I find that I spend a lot of time with my friends when I’m not working, since it helps me feel included and less lonely. This surprised me because at home, I was much more of a homebody. So that’s another great thing about uni, it gets you to become more confident and have fun.
There’s also the student buddy scheme run by the university, which allows students from underrepresented groups (first-generation students included) to have contact with an older student before and during their first term. This is a really great way to get extra advice and guidance from someone with first-hand experiences of uni life.
Overall, university isn’t as scary as you really think it is. Even if you do turn up not knowing much at all, there’s plenty of help out there. By reading these blogs you’re already finding the guidance you need. There’s also support within your college and course department, so don’t be afraid to reach out. I personally found it better to learn as I went along with my first few weeks at uni, but it’s also important to do some research before leaving.