Category Archives: Southampton

The Student Channel, Southampton

Meeting people and making friends at university


The pressure during the first couple of weeks of uni to instantly make loads of friends can be intense. Freshers’ may be over, but that doesn’t mean your window for meeting people is closed. Think about it – how many people can make friends for life in a week? But if you’re struggling and not sure how to go about connecting with people, here are a few pointers from somebody who’s been there.

1)    Join a society

Even if you don’t have a hobby and even if you can’t see a society that you particularly want to be a part of! It’s free (usually) and a really easy way to meet new people. If you’re having trouble getting on with your flatmates or meeting people on your course, why not join several? You can always leave later, and still hang on to your new-found friends.

2)    Talk to people

Wherever and whenever possible, find a reason to strike up a conversation. A simple “hello” when passing someone you recognise in halls, “have you done the reading?” to the person next to you in a seminar, “what are you making?” to someone in your flat or shared kitchen… the possibilities are endless. Don’t wait for other people to come to you – if you seek out opportunities yourself you’ll make friends so much more easily. Or why not take advantage of Dutch courage and introduce yourself to the person next to you at the bar? In the first couple of weeks everyone is very open and friendly – the chances of embarrassment really are minimal.

3)    Keep your bedroom door open

It may seem obvious but wedging your door open during the first few days is the perfect zero-effort way to meet people. The super-confident types who are wandering around meeting people are bound to put their head round an open door – you’re essentially inviting people to come in and talk to you.

4)    Fake it ‘til you make it

It’s a well-known theory, and completely applicable here. If you’re naturally quite shy and reserved meeting people can seem like an uphill struggle. But university is a fresh start – no-one here knows that you’re not chatty, outgoing and oozing with confidence! So why not pretend? It might seem scary at first, but your fake confidence will help you make connections with people, which will boost your confidence, which will help you make even more connections, and hey presto! you’ve got yourself a nice group of mates.

5)    Use props

Taking along fun, interesting items is a great idea. Think shot glasses, shisha pipes, games, packs of cards, or even just a Frisbee. If you can propose activities that people want to be a part of, you’re already getting a headstart.

6)    Facebook

Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting that you add people you don’t know (although that would work too!). You can, however, use Facebook to your advantage. Met someone new and caught their name? Add them on Facebook. Noticed your flatmate is now friends with that girl you met in your first lecture? Add her as a friend too. It’s called social networking for a reason – it’s a great way of expanding your network of acquaintances and cultivating new relationships. If you’re really struggling to pluck up the courage to talk to people, why not reach out from behind the safety of your computer screen? Add a coursemate and message them about this week’s assignment. Comment on group photos with you in. Find out which events the people you know are going to, and go along with them. And all without leaving your bedroom.

7)    Eat with people

This is a really easy way to get talking to your flatmates or the other people on your corridor. Try to time your meals so that there are other people around cooking too, and eat at the table rather than taking your food back to your room. The same thing goes for catered halls – try to arrange to go down to dinner together instead of alone.

But most importantly of all, relax! Seriously. It might seem like you’re the last person on campus not to have made friends yet, or you might feel you’re stuck with a group of people you don’t feel very strongly about, but you’d be surprised how much things continue to change over the first couple of months or even the whole year. It’s not too late to reach out to people – remember that everybody is in the same boat, and other people are just as keen to meet you as you are them. How many times in your life will you be in a situation where thousands of people are actively trying to be your friend? Make the most of it.

Written by Lucy, Bristol.

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What (and what not) to take to uni

Moving to university is a scary time and a brief Google search will throw up a huge amount of conflicting advice on what you ought to take with you. With this in mind, rather than an exhaustive list of absolutely everything you will need (and definitely won’t), this article aims to point out a few things that you might not have thought of when packing your bag.

The top 5 things I wish I had brought to uni:

1. Posters, photos and knick-knacks.

Anything that will personalise your room and make it feel more homely is a must! The more settled you feel in your own space, the more quickly you’ll settle into your new life. There’s no need to panic if your room is looking a little bare, though: most universities run a poster sale in freshers’ week.

2. Fancy dress.

Like it or not, you can bet that within your first ten days at uni you’ll need at least two different costumes! There’s no need to go overboard, but anything you have lying around which could make a good army, school disco, or cowboys and Indians costume is definitely worth throwing in your bag.

3. One of: a bottle opener, a tin opener, and a cheese grater.

These three are often overlooked in the pre-uni Ikea frenzy, and it’s not uncommon to arrive in halls and find that your kitchen has 25 plates, 10 saucepans, 2 toastie makers and no corkscrew.

4. Playing cards.

Essential for drinking games. If you can get waterproof ones, even better!

5. Tea towels.

With a good 6-10 people sharing a kitchen, you can never have too many tea towels – especially since no-one will ever volunteer to wash them.

And now, the things you really don’t need:

1. Everything you own.

Rooms in halls are generally very small, and there won’t be space for you to store all your childhood teddies/40 pairs of shoes/GCSE coursework. Remember that a term is only 10-12 weeks long – how much stuff do you really need?

2. Extra furniture.

Your room will have furniture in that is designed to make the best possible use of the limited space. Anything extra will only get in the way!

3. Your own kettle/toaster/fridge.

All of these are provided as standard by the university if you’re in self-catered halls (and sometimes even if you aren’t) – not only will they take up precious space in your room but they’ll waste energy too. Also, do you really want to be the flatmate who hides all their food in their room?

4. In the same vein, you really don’t need an egg poacher/deep fat fryer/blender/apple corer.

Chances are you only occasionally use these things at home, and they’ll just sit in a drawer gathering dust.

5. Your hamster/rabbit/fish.

Not only because pets are against the rules, but also because halls just aren’t a good place for animals to live – they’re cramped, noisy and dirty.

Whilst it’s important to be prepared in order to get the best out of your first weeks at uni, there’s no need to get overly stressed about it. Forgetting to bring a frying pan or your favourite poster is not going to have much of an effect on how well you settle in. So think carefully about what you want to pack, but most importantly relax and enjoy yourself – you’re about to embark on the best years of your life!

Written by Lucy, Bristol

The Problem with Summer

I think we can all agree that uni’s pretty hectic. It’s a crazy blur of essays, parties and cheap drinks. So when summer hits, and we’re presented with three stretching months of freedom, what do we do? Whilst the thought of so much time off is enough to strike fear into the hearts of students across the country, others seize the opportunity and make as many crazy plans as humanly possible. I, unfortunately, fall into the former category. Three months back in my ridiculously rural hometown is enough to turn anyone into a serial killer. That’s why this time last year I blew my the rest of my loan (and more) on two months in Australia.

It was actually surprising how effortlessly I blew £950 on flights alone, and hardly batted an eyelid when I forked out £120 for my visa (although I’m sure my overdraft did!). Looking back, it was a bit of a harebrained scheme…but oh-so worth it!

The plan was to fly over there, get a job on a vineyard, travel a bit and make every penny back. It was definitely easier said than done!

After a deliriously tiring twenty-three hours, I landed in Perth airport and checked into a hostel. The next day I got on a coach and within five hours I was in the wine region of Margaret River. It was here that the vineyard work began. What can I say about pruning? Perhaps it wasn’t the ideal choice of jobs for a chronic mirror-checking girly girl. It definitely took a while to adjust to the achey hands, makeup-less face and rude awakenings at 6am!

The good thing about seasonal work in Australia is that minimum wage is high. I was getting $18 an hour for essentially chopping at trees. You’re never going to make a killing pruning vines, but it’ll keep you going for a while at least (2 months in my case!).

After abandoning my short-lived pruning career, I travelled back to Perth with some friends that I’d met on my travels. A year later, I can still honestly say it was the best time of my life. The friends I made and the laughs I had there just can’t be matched.

Of course, coming back to England brought me back to earth with a bump. I realised it was time to come back to real life, and jump back into the (amazing but emotional) world of university again. So back to uni it was, and here I am again, faced with another endless summer.

Whether you’re content with getting your chill on (and making the most of the free meals) at home, or flying halfway across the world to make the most of a few months, just remember that these could be the longest holidays you’ll have – make the most of them!

So where will I be going this summer? China, New Zealand, Nepal? Not quite. I’ll be staying put, saving for next summer…

Written by Sarah, Manchester Uni

To be or not to be (a student)…

Global economic recession, high rates of unemployment and increased tuition fees paint a miserable picture for school leavers looking to go to college or University. What’s the point? Traditionally if you wanted a good job then University was the way to go, spending at least 3 years learning the knowledge and then you were pretty much guaranteed of walking into a good job at the end of it- wham bam thank you ma’am and you’d have a good ride along the way.

Freshers

I wanted to go to Uni, I wasn’t forced into it by my parents- I had a choice and I took it. I was warned by school teachers that the work will be a lot, lot harder than school and to think long and hard about it. One of my teachers said she’d only just paid off her student loan, she was quite old so that was slightly concerning but I already knew that they only took a small percentage out per month so I felt the positives outweighed the negatives. Would I make the same decision with tuition fees at 9k? I’m not sure.

To be honest I thought my University course was easier than my GCSE’s, I had to get a meagre 40% in my first year at Uni to pass through to the next hurdle. The institution settled me in gently, allowing me to spend more of my time on 3-legged bar crawls, drinking cider out my shoe and shouting our University chant like I was going into battle. Little did I know that 2 years later that I would enter a battle, a battle to get a job!

Bar Crawl

3 years of amazing and happy times later, the day of graduation arrived almost like an intervention, telling me enough was enough and now I must leave the incubator and join the workforce. After all I was brimming with knowledge, high on ambition and trained like a ninja to cover all eventualities my future job may throw at me. Bring it on.

Graduation day was a pleasant affair whilst slightly strange having my smartly dressed parents, beaming with pride walking through my stomping ground. As I walked up to the graduation venue and past the local kebab merchant, memories of the rugby social we had a few nights before came back to haunt me, 6 of us dressed in girls clothes walking/stumbling home arm in arm talking about the finer points of a good doner kebab. To distract my wondering mind from discovering any more embarrassing memories I pointed out a nearby art gallery to my parents and said “It’s really good.” I’d been there once in 3 years.

Graduation Ceremony

We entered the vast concert hall where the graduation ceremony was being held, we were the 3rd batch of the day filling up hundreds of seats, my seat was still warm from the previous occupier- he/she was probably worried, like I was, about the many things that could go wrong. Will i trip over, will my pants fall down, what colour pants do I even have on?! etc etc.

Boring Snoring

The ceremony was presented by the most senior University faculty who I’d never seen before but I presumed they were probably descendants of a holy nature and had full right to be presenting me with my freshly printed degree or as I jokingly refer to it, my receipt. Admittedly I spent most of the ceremony studying peoples faces as they had to cross the vast space across the stage to shake the unknown-but-important-man’s hand. Just to let you know my findings, i found that the vast majority of people locked eyes on the man as they crossed the stage, often without blinking, scared to the bone of the vast crowd to the left of them. Many people opted for an early raise of the arm, walking up to 20 feet with their hand already extended which I enjoyed greatly. A handful of people determined to make this a memorable occasion even turned to the crowd and waved, a couple of girls did a little dance and one girl roared and fist pumped the air which personally I thought was a bit too much. If she was my daughter I’d have her put down. Personally i want for an early extend of the arm and then rather regrettably patted the man on the back whilst shaking his hand, very RnB and totally inappropriate.

Goodbye amigos(Goodbye Amigos, we will meet again soon)

Graduation day came and went, I had one final furore with my fellow primates and a few days later packed up my belongings and left the place that had become my home and provider of happy times. I moved home, living like a child again in my parents’ house and embarked on the job hunt, still full of beans and optimism. However the weeks past into months and I, like thousands of other students across the UK, couldn’t find any jobs.

No Jobs

It’s a genuinely desperate and demoralising feeling when you search the vast number of job websites and all that you see are hundreds of recruitment vacancies. How can recruitment be so popular when there aren’t any jobs? This still confuses me. In desperation I actually went for a number of recruitment interviews and I was briefed by my recruiter prior to each interview that if they ask me why I want that job I should say “I want a big house, nice car and loads of cash.” A refreshing but slightly more cringe change to “Because I really enjoy working in a team and getting job satisfaction.” For the next few weeks I visited many offices, adopting the role of a complete tool pretending I wanted to do recruitment. I didn’t get any of the jobs, my CV was too creative and one person said I was even ‘too nice.’ I’m sorry but when was that a problem in the work place? Just to add I’m sure not all recruitment people are idiots, just the ones I met.

Take a snapshot of graduates today and you’ll see thousands of students struggling to find employment or working in jobs they could have got without getting a degree or the debt! This pool of ‘tomorrows talent’ gets murkier each day as thousands more graduate with high ambitions but no opportunities. What I’ve heard a lot from employers and job vacancies is that students need to have experience in that industry to get the job however at the same time, many times students can’t get experience until they have a degree. Come on lets be honest, monkeys could do most of the jobs out there- just give us a chance!

The average student now leaves University with around £20-25k of debt and around £30k for those unfortunates in the capital. That debt is going to rise even higher with 64 Universities announcing that they will charge the full £9,000 a year tuition fees in 2012. Is University a worthwhile investment at this cost? This is an ongoing debate and not one I’m going to attempt to answer, the full impact of the governments decision on tuition fees and the state of the economy will be revealed in time.

All I would say to people out there considering University as an option is to definitely think long and hard about it and what you want out of life. Does your ideal job require a degree? Are their any jobs out there once you graduate? Can you get into that job another way? Could you put that money, your future debt, to a better use? etc etc.

With the vast numbers of people going to University these days and the rise of unemployment, its getting harder and harder for people to get jobs. My advice is that once you’re at Uni you need to gain as much experience and skills as possible so that you’ll stand out amongst the thousands of other hopefuls when you graduate. There’s so many opportunities to make yourself stand out at University, from getting involved in sports and societies to gaining work experience in local businesses, take every opportunity- it goes so fast. Just think about the day when you’re all done, you’re sat in the sobriety of your family home and you need to get a decent job. What makes your CV different from the others.

Fortunately my extra curricular activities at Uni were the ones that got me my dream job, the degree just got me the interview. Don’t give up, keep trying and good luck to all the new students out there who’ve decided to take the plunge! Whatever happens you’ll have a great few years, trust me! 😉

Written by Ben Oliver, The Student Channel

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