I let my little brother ask me questions about uni life, and I had to answer honestly...
My little brother is off to university today.
And 10 years ago, I made the same journey from our hometown of Bath, over the Severn Bridge, to Talybont Halls in Cardiff.
The only difference is my brother's accommodation is in a different block to where mine was, but he'll be going to the same clubs, shopping at the same Tesco (second biggest one in Europe, btw), and throwing up in the same Students' Union toilets as I did. He'll just be doing it a decade later.
Here I am at uni, looking like a right dick
I don't want to embarrass my little brother, but I love him. In multiple ways I look up to Sam, he's more sensible than me, more intelligent than me, and better looking than me.
He's taller than me now too. Prick.
I never really worry about Sam, but thinking back to the couple of weeks leading up to my departure from 18 years in the family home, it's a scary, anxious, exciting time, and I offered to answer any question he had about university with honesty.
So here goes nothing...
Sam: How did you deal with living with people you don't get on with?
I did not deal with that, mainly because I didn't have to. I pretty much liked everyone I lived with, in fact I was probably the one that ended up pissing other people off.
The thing you have to learn quickly is that, while mum might have cleaned up our plates or put them in the dishwasher when we left them on the side at home, if you leave shit lying around at uni people will get pissed off.
If you come in at 4am, steaming, and leave a kebab carton on the kitchen table, you probably have a 12-hour grace period until the following afternoon to clean that shit up.
Is it common to spend a large quantity of your money on alcohol, or is that just a myth?
Me spending large quantities of money on alcohol (and fancy dress clothes)
Haha, that is real and common, yes. University is social event, after social event, after social event. And in your first year, when your course isn't so intense, you can burn the candle at both ends without suffering too much.
You *will* spend a lot of your time in shit clubs because some absolute banterlad from Block D wants to go there for his birthday and one of your housemates knows him from lectures and he is a right laugh.
But you'll also go to some great places, have some absolutely incredible nights out, and learn how to dance without feeling like a complete knob.
Just don't mix your drinks. Just because another 18-year-old with barely any experience of consuming alcohol is telling you to add half a pint of whisky to your vodka and coke doesn't mean it's a good idea. Spirits do not mix well with each other, they don't mix well with wine, they don't mix well with beer. GO EASY ON THE SPIRITS. The best thing to do is drink beer or cider. Just make sure you do some exercise to work it all off.
Do relationships at university work, or are they just a waste of time?
I think there is just the same chance of a relationship working out well at university as there is in any other situation. I know people who are married now, who initially met in university halls, but I also know of uni relationships that ended disastrously.
The most likely thing to happen is that you will get on with someone really well, you will hook up with them, and then you will realise that actually not every time two people get on with each other on a personal level does it mean that they have to fuck.
Is it normal to reach your overdraft at uni?
Me hitting my overdraft limit by buying fancy dress clothes for a Powerpuff Girl party
Oh man. Look, you know me very well, you can probably tell that when it comes to financial responsibility, I am not a person you should be looking up to.
You are better with money than me, I think, and I reckon you'll probably be able to keep a tighter control on your finances, but I went into my overdraft quite quickly. But don't take that as an excuse to go into yours. Mum and dad will only bail you out once.
Most banks offer an interest-free overdraft up to -£1200, but don't make the mistake that I made and see that minus figure as being the limit. If your overdraft is -£1200, then tell yourself your limit is -£1000, because as soon as you go beyond that -£1200 you are going to get absolutely screwed with charges.
Back when I went to uni, they didn't even have mobile banking, now you can probably set up alerts to tell you when you go beyond certain amounts and stuff. Do all that stuff, be proactive, look after yourself!
Am I likely to start developing a Welsh accent?
Not really an accent, but you will pick up mannerisms.
There will be people at uni you get on with really well, and if you live with those people you'll spend hours and hours of every day with them, so you'll probably start picking up on their mannerisms and start using weird phrases that you've never used before.
Is it actually possible to pay attention to a whole lecture?
Do I need to buy tickets for Freshers' Week or just get them on the door?
Me, er... looking at my mate's ass by the looks of things
Agree with your mates which nights you are going to go to, and buy tickets in advance, and make sure you all get them at the same time and that EVERYONE knows you are buying the tickets so that nobody is accidentally excluded.
Otherwise you get to a point where half of you are going to one night, the other half are going to another night, some people don't have tickets, which means they need to queue up for 30 minutes on the door, and that's a nightmare, especially in Cardiff where it rains every single damn day of the year and you didn't bring a hooded jacket because you thought it would mess up your look.
I've heard that Cardiff has a massive drug problem...
We're from Bath, mate. Everywhere else has a massive drug problem in comparison.
I think the student population and the student nightlife is kept pretty separate from that side of Cardiff. It's a great place to live, with loads of outstanding places to go out. You'll love it.
Let me know if they still play Mr Brightside at the end of the night, every night, in the SU. I kind of hope they do.
Any other advice?
My advice to anyone going to university over the next couple of weeks is very similar advice to something I read in a Super Ted book when I was four years old, about going to school for the first time.
Everyone is in the same boat, you are all (or nearly all) leaving your parental home for the first time, you are nearly all in a city you don't recognise, with people you don't know. You can either look at that as a terrifying thing (let's face it, it is a bit terrifying), or you can look at it as the most exciting thing that can potentially ever happen to you.
In three years, you won't be able to get so shitfaced on a Tuesday that you can't move from your bed until the next day, because you will have to get a job, and jobs are the worst.
Here's some practical advice:
- Drink water and eat food before you go to bed if you've had a heavy night.
- Put a glass of water next to your bed before you go to sleep if you've had a heavy night.
- Don't miss so many lectures that you can't actually write your essays.
- Men, there is still a horrendous culture of misogyny at many UK universities, by not partaking in this culture you have the power to kill it off.
- Know where your limit is with alcohol and don't exceed it, the easiest way to get too fucked up is by drinking spirits too early in the night, getting your stomach pumped isn't fun.
- Rugby and football initiations are, largely, not as bad as some of the bullshit stories you hear, but don't do something you don't want to do just because some creatine-pumped guy you've never met before is telling you that you have to.
- Call your family and your mates from back home every once in a while, and make sure you visit mates who are at other universities – it's a good chance to meet new people and drink the same alcohol and dance to the same music in a very slightly different surrounding.
- It's normal to feel lonely and isolated sometimes, make sure you have people away from university who you can whatsapp or call if you ever feel a bit crap but don't want to talk to your uni mates. Your university will also have free counselling services for anyone who feels like they're struggling, make use of them if you need to.
- ENJOY YOURSELF. It's so much fun. A little bit of hard work is involved, but it's mainly just really fun.