Freshers: How to make the most of your first weeks in Cardiff

Okay, the hardest part is over; you got the grades and you’re at university at last. You’ve been given your keys, you’ve unpacked, done your first food shop and your parents have gone. An exciting new chapter in your life starts here.

Some of you may find the whole ordeal of moving away from home and not knowing anyone scary. In fact if anyone says that they don’t feel that way, chances are they’re lying.

So from the start, make sure you get yourself out there. If you haven’t bought a doorstep, find something that will prop open your door to show people that you are friendly and sociable. Don’t be afraid to knock on doors. Go and introduce yourself to your flatmates. Knock on the door the flat next door, the flat upstairs, the flat downstairs etc. Ask questions about them. Take an interest. Invite people to pre-drinks. You’re all in the same boat so embrace it.

I’m sure I don’t need to remind you of the themed nights organised by the university’s Students’ Union and by various nightclubs around Cardiff. Most of you have probably already purchased your wristbands and fancy dress costumes. This is what Freshers is all about, celebrating your arrival and having a good time. This is another great way of meeting people so try and go to as many of these as possible.

Many people have told me that when they look back, the university experience was one of the best of their lives, so be sure to take lots of photos with new friends and throw yourself into any opportunity you are given.

This also goes for events organised in the day. If you are a postgraduate or an international student there will be events organised especially for you to meet people doing the same as you.

Attending the sports and societies fairs is a must. There are over 200 societies and 60 sports clubs to choose from so there is something for everyone.

Joining extra-curricular activities again is another great way of finding like-minded people who could make your university experience memorable. Whether you have played a sport all of your life, want to pick something up again after a break or if you simply fancy trying something new, having a hobby is very healthy as it develops you as a young adult in a different way to your academic studies.

It’s great to have a break from the books and the stresses of adult life. All of the sports clubs have taster sessions available in the first few weeks of the semester, therefore be sure to attend any that interest you and then decide which ones you’d like to join for the year. I would advise joining at least one sport and one society.

A sport is not only a good laugh, but will keep you physically fit and the societies are just fun in general. Keep an eye out for course-specific societies as this is the main way to meet the students doing the same modules and those in the years above.

Most clubs and societies have a reasonable joining fee but some are completely free to join.

Although Cardiff is classed as a small city, it is still a big place, especially for those of who are unfamiliar with the area. Over the first few days of my time at Cardiff, some of my house mates and I explored the city. Find out where your nearest supermarket is, for example.

When you go to the Students’ Union to pick up your ID card, have a look around and discover what it can offer you. For example there are numerous food outlets and shops that may be of use.

Go and register with your local GP as Freshers’ Flu will surely creep up on you during the first semester.

Pop into town and explore. Where are the nightclubs you will be visiting during the year in case you need to find your way home? Where is the halls of residence laundrette and the office? Where is your nearest pharmacy, hairdresser, cinema? Where are the shops, cafés, bars?

Cardiff has so many things to see and a walk around it on your first week will give you ideas of the types of things you will want to have done by the time you graduate.

In addition, once you get your timetable, take a walk to your course building and don’t be afraid to have a look around the place. You will be spending a considerable amount of time there over the next three years so it is important to get your bearings.

While you’re at it, why not try and find the library? Essays and assignments may seem like a while away but at least you will know where to go when you need it.

As boring as it may seem, Freshers’ week does involve attending induction lectures where you will be informed about your course, what is expected of you, library training and the admin system. These are not to be missed as it makes your first term so much easier if you know how everything works.

Don’t forget to make an appointment with your personal tutor as part of your enrolment (you may have two if you are joint honours) to say hello as they will help you through your time at university.

Make sure you enrol onto your modules when told to do so to prevent any difficulties later on. If you are required to choose additional modules for the year, think carefully about what you think you would enjoy, what you were good at at school and if there is anything new you would like to try. Although first year does not count towards your overall degree grade, you must pass all modules to be able to enrol onto your second year.

Overall I would just say have fun, be yourself and grab every opportunity as we only regret the things we don’t do with hindsight. Have fun folks!

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