All you need to know about: Enrolling, Surviving and Enjoying Uni

Experience tells me that when older relatives or friends try to give you advice about your first week of uni, the phrases, ‘fish out of water’, ‘Year 7 all over again’, and ‘lost tourist in a bustling city’, are uttered repeatedly until they segue into a rambling anecdote about the embarrassing things they did on their first few days. It all ends with a pat on the back and a nowhere near reassuring ‘don’t worry, you’ll be fine’. Not helpful. Read this survival guide for a series of useful tips on how to get through your first week of uni. When you’re done, you’ll be blessed with the know-how every older student wishes they had (I sadly have many stories of social awkwardness to share with a ready listener).

For advice from students at your university, check out our beginners guides here.

All you need to know about: Choosing Classes

If you have a choice about which subjects you take, being proactive is the key to ending up in classes you actually like. Choosing classes for the first time can be confusing, especially if you have to do it on your own. University websites are also a pool of knowledge - each of them has an enrolment guide and tips page and has information about where else you can seek help. Try and finalise your subject choice quickly, because classes will be filling up.

Don’t stress too much about the types of classes you are choosing and their possible impact on the rest of your degree. Choose classes that appeal to you. If you end up hating them, you can always drop them without academic penalty before your university’s designated deadline. No-one expects you to make decisions about your academic future before you’ve even finished your first semester.


All you need to know about: Uni Social Life


Imagine a festival where things are mostly free, the music is loud and events such as Quidditch matches, dance parties, band gigs and comedy nights are in abundance. Welcome to O-Week. If you want to get a concentrated taste of the uni lifestyle, then you should definitely attend every day of your university’s orientation week. It’s fun, a great way to make friends, and of course, there are introductory lectures you can attend to ensure you are even more prepared than your fellow first years. Also, if you want to join sporting groups, clubs and societies O-Week is the time to sign up. Entry is usually free or dirt-cheap and you’ll be instantly invited to satellite events like the Beer Society Club Crawl or Film Society Pizza Night.

Making Friends

Despite what fantasies you may have, making friends at university can be hard. The best way to land a chum is to look approachable and dare to say ‘hi’ to the person sitting next to you in lectures, classes or even on the bus. Most people are in the same situation and will jump at the chance to engage in human conversation. While you may find yourself talking to a lot of people, come week 2, you may still find yourself without a real friend. Don’t worry: this is perfectly normal. Thousands of people attend university daily, so what are the chances of you finding a real chum during the first week? University is definitely a ‘social’ environment, but it’s also a place for independent learning. You’ll find that people actually like doing things on their own and that it’s more than socially acceptable to eat lunch, study and read by yourself. The moral of the story: it's actually quite normal if you don’t make a zillion friends at uni.


All you need to know about: your first week at Uni

What to bring:
4 pens (be prepared to lend a few)
2 highlighters
1 notebook (not one for every subject one for the whole day)
A bottle of water
A snack
Adequate funds
A campus map

Lectures and Tutorials

Don’t be surprised if you can’t even get a seat during your first lecture. Students are super eager at the beginning of semester. By Week 3, these numbers will dwindle, as people will drop out of the subject, decide that lectures aren’t worth waking up for or decide to spend their time sipping a latte on a grassy lawn. Your first lecture will mostly be introductory with most lecturers going through the course outline. Don’t be shy to take notes, but remember that lecture slides can usually be found online. A few key points will do. Avoid the temptation of playing with your iPhone and sending messages during lectures. It’s an exciting break from the strictures of a high school classroom but these are bad habits to fall into.

Your first tutorial will also be fairly introductory and you’ll probably have to endure corny icebreaker games. Depending on how long your class is, you’ll eventually get to down to business. Most tutorials begin in week 2 and by then you will be expected to have completed a course reading or task. Make sure you do it. When your tutor asks if anyone came prepared they will probably be faced with a room full of poker-faced students. This is not because no one has done the prep, they have. Rather, it’s because people are too shy to own up to it. Just put your hand up. Chances are you’ll start Mexican wave.

Most importantly, during your first class, your tutor will provide you with their contact details. This could be the one and only time you’ll get them (especially if your tutor is old school). Copy these details carefully and then treat them like gold. You never know when you’ll need to send your tutor an SOS email or an ‘I’m sorry I couldn’t make it to class’ apology.


Finding good food and a decent coffee

Scoping out a decent coffee at university isn’t hard. Just follow the crowd. If a café has a huge line, chances are the coffee is damn good. While these lines may seem massive they don’t take long and the hot cup of greatness coming your way is well worth the 5 minute wait. When it comes to food, things get trickier, as money is also a key factor. Eating at university is usually an expensive undertaking and the perfect lunch is about striking a balance between taste, price and quantity. Ask someone where the best place to eat is or take a few minutes to walk around different food establishments to get an idea of how far your $8 will take you. If you’re starving, in a rush and on a tight budget, sushi or yogurt are always cheap options that will keep you going. Salad stands and tiny counters jammed between fast food chains are where you’ll find these goods.