How to survive your first term

Fresher dos and don’ts that will help you get the most out of your new universe

Wed, Aug 14, 2013, 06:00

Forget everything you ever learned about anything. Feel free to discard the so-called friends you hung out with merely because they sat next to you in class, and get ready to make friends with some people you actually like. Show up to class, don’t show up: nobody cares any more. And get used to, literally, living on beans.

College is a major culture shock, and many freshers get a little overwhelmed by the whole experience. Pay attention to these top tips, and you might just survive your first semester.

Fun and friends
DO Be brave. Making new friends is hard, but everyone is in the same boat here. In bigger, more anonymous universities such as UCD, join clubs and societies. In smaller colleges, talk to people in your class.

DO Join the societies and clubs that interest you, and some that don’t. All those weird secret interests you’ve kept hidden for so many years – sitting quietly in the dark plotting revenge, tumblesoccerfrisbington, and eating live goldfish – will all be accepted by like-minded people in college. Only two of those interests are made up – one of them really does have a society.

DON’T Blow all your budget on joining every club and society just because they offer you a free sherbet. It’s just sugar, not acceptance.

DO Start planning your summer travel. The world will be swept from under your feet once you have a job, mortgage, and commitments (try not to get these either, unless you have to). Now is the time to travel. Do it. Book that J1. Do it. Go Inter-railing. Do it. Check out SUAS, which sends students to work in developing countries during the summer. Do it, do it, do it.

DO Put on your finest suit or dress and get to a college ball for a delicious hotel dinner of rubbery chicken with overboiled veg and a generic gravy , which you will wash down with drink and dancing. Despite the oft gruesome food, the annual balls will be a clear contender for the highlight of your college life.

Sex and relationships
DO Use contraception. Colleges are a hotbed of chlamydia and other nasties – don’t get so drunk that you forget the condoms.

DO Come out. Telling people that you are gay might be scary, but it’s not as scary as a life of lies. Here is a guarantee: in college, you will find large numbers people who will love and support you irrespective of your sexual orientation (warning: they may still dislike you if you’re a pain, or for the good old-fashioned reason that you have tragic and dire taste in music).

DON’T Put up with sexism. Speaking out about the intimidating posters of barely clothed women, widely used to advertise society events, doesn’t make you a “raving” feminist; it simply means you recognise that women’s role in college life is not merely decorative, in an environment where the majority of students are female but the top tiers of academia are male dominated. Or, if you don’t want to make a fuss: just rip the damn posters down.

DO Remember that most college relationships end. If you go out with one of your eight classmates in a small college, you’ll be stuck looking at their face long after the split.

DON’T Ah, don’t shy away from having a relationship with a hopeless stoner, a pretentious and ridiculous poet, or a metal goth. Adopt their identity like a fleeting fashion – college is about experimenting with who you are. Discard, and try to forget that embarrassing phase.

DO While you’re at it, develop a hopeless crush on a lecturer or classmate and follow them around like a lost puppy all year. You can get away with in college, whereas you’ll be arrested for harassment once you graduate.

Staying alive
DO Look out for discounts, bargains and coupons. Show your student card everywhere; it’s a passport to reduced prices and free stuff. Jobs are hard to come by, so you’ll need to learn how to budget, and fast. Aldi and Lidl really are as good and cheap as your mammy has been saying for the past five years. If you’re eating out, you’ll find cheap eats in any city with a student population.

DON’T Consider the room tidy because you’ve thrown a large blanket over a pile of dirty plates, mouldy pizza crusts, and unwashed clothes. This makes you the slobby flatmate. The rat that has taken up residence in your room is not cute.

DO Develop the appearance of tolerance as a succession of awful flatmates test your ability to live on the same planet as other humans. This will serve you well, until the point that you are wealthy enough to retreat to the mountains and build a human-free fortress served by an army of genius robot spiders. Sure, isn’t that why you went to college in the first place?

DON’T Be a cheapskate who robs several cows worth of milk from your flatmates but never replaces it. Ever heard the story about the passive aggressive control freak who lived with the skinflint? It ended with the skinflint choking to death after eating a pile of instructions left on yellow post-it notes.

DO Remember, if you don’t have a hateful flatmate, you are the hateful flatmate.

DON’T Live entirely on cold noodles. Chicken flavoured seasoning is not a source of protein, and chilli powder is not a vegetable.

DO Check out your scholarship options. This year, UCC, UL, NUI Galway, UCD and NUI Maynooth will offer a number of entrance scholarships to students with strong results. Trinity has limited entrance scholarships. Super-talented sports players could be in line for a very helpful cash injection to see you through.

DON’T Ignore your problems. College can be a stressful place, with financial difficulties, the strain of being away from home, and emotional problems all coming to the fore. There is support in place. Talk to the student advisors, the chaplains, the counsellors, the students’ union, or even your lecturers. Help is there, and seeking it is a sign of strength. See for a list of student support services.

Not getting kicked out of college
DO So, that thing about not having to show up at lectures. You should show up, or you’ll be failing before you know it. Can you really afford the repeat fees? One lecturer tells a story of a student who only occasionally showed up at class, always wearing a beanie hat, always bleary eyed, always smelling of suspicious substances, and always falling asleep at the back of class.

DON’T Copy your essay word for word from Wikipedia. Plagiarising from the internet is alarmingly common among first years, and your chances of getting away with it are slim. According to campus legend, the aforementioned sleepy student copied his essay word for word from a children’s website. He failed with flying colours.

DO Read some books. Nobody will allow you discuss Joyce once you graduate, unless you’re hanging out with Bloomsday types – in which case, we can’t help you with your problems.

DON’T Spend mindless days masterfully highlighting an entire textbook and realise, several panicked hours before you sit the exam, that you have learned nothing.

DO Put that smartphone away. Instagramming pictures of your library books is, in fact, even more boring than study, and a surefire way to develop a deep sense of self-hatred and ennui-tinged regret. Check out the Pomodoro Technique as a good method for imposing some control on your social media usage.

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