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How to Survive Your First Year at ARU College

The move from high school to university was an intimidating leap. Not only was I going to get launched into a completely new city with no one I knew, but on top of that, I had no idea what university was going to be like.

The move from high school to university was an intimidating leap. Not only was I going to get launched into a completely new city with no one I knew, but on top of that, I had no idea what university was going to be like.

Thankfully, I managed to make it past the first year at ARU College. It took some adjusting; I learned that university is definitely not effortless.

But not to fear!

Throughout my stay here, I’ve collected, discovered, and practiced the best ways to keep on top of your studies, responsibilities, and everything else. Here are 5 tips to help you survive your first year at uni.

Never leave anything until the deadline.

Readings and tasks are set ahead for a reason!

I’ve heard a lot of horror stories. This was actually the first tip one of my flatmates gave me when I asked for it – during her Undergraduate course, she’d decided to leave all of her readings until before the exam. By the time the exam came around, she had to study over 70 pages in one night. I took that as a very serious warning.

Consequently, at the end of my first semester, those in my class who were blissfully unaware of this fact stayed up for over 48 hours in the Open Access area, cramming for final submission. I could only look on in horror.

This is the best tip I can offer: do the things you’re assigned when you get them so they don’t pile up later on. It may seem like it won’t be difficult to breeze through, but little things tend to add up easily. You’ll find this principle doesn’t just apply to assignments, but also spending. While the first few weeks might seem easy, it gets real hectic down the line. Which is why you should…

Write down what you need to do.

Keep a list of all your assigned tasks. If there’s something in a lecture you still don’t understand (even after asking for assistance), write that down to study later too. It is 100% easier to break down your workload if you know what it is.

If you miss a class or just don’t understand what you need to do, Moodle is your best friend. When the semester starts, everything on the site should be set up for you. I’ve checked Moodle more than any of the university resources we have because that’s where your tutor will upload all the reference links, documents, task details, and other lecture info that you’ll need to catch up.

(Not to mention your tutors can check whether you’ve looked at the site at all, so being a regular user could get you some credibility points.)

Still, I wouldn’t rely on Moodle in there’s an internet or server issue, so take notes on what’s there and download what you need regularly. I try to do so every week.

Set a schedule.

You can’t do everything you’re assigned as soon as it’s given, but that’s why most of the lecture timetable is “empty”. I say “empty” because it isn’t really empty – you’re supposed to fill it out yourself.

Remember that you have time out of hours for chores, work, going out, sleeping, AND for assignments. If you have a lot of strict tasks to do (such as a job or meeting family), make sure to plan with those things in mind; a strict schedule may be more helpful in such a case.

For to-do lists that let you assign dates, I like to use Trello. It’s simple, clean, and easy to use, plus there’s a mobile app. Other apps I’ve used and can recommend are Habitica (an app that turns doing your tasks into a mobile game), and Todoist, a more streamlined list app. Alternately, you could just use your smartphone calendar, or do it the old-fashioned way and buy a planner with your BooksPlus.

Work with your classmates.

This is a great way to study for loads of reasons. Firstly, being around people who are studying motivates you to study. Secondly, if you don’t get something, you’ll have someone from your course to ask who might be able to help you. Thirdly, you’ll be able to get to know the people in your course better. Lastly, if you’re worried about balancing your study life and social life, this kills two birds with one stone!

The university provides a variety of facilities for you to work with your friends. There’s the Anglia Ruskin Library, where you can book a pod or room and loan a laptop. There’s also the Open Access area on the floor above, which has hundreds of computer stations available for student use. Both of these areas are open and have printer access 24/7.

If you’d like to stay somewhere more relaxed and less crowded, I like to stay at the Student Union Lounge. There aren’t any printers or computer stations, but if you’ve brought your own device, this is a more spacious alternative to the other two areas. Additionally, if there’s a room without a class being held in it, students are free to use that room as they would an Open Access area. Just make sure to check the room’s schedule on the displays outside its door.

There’s also cafes in the Grafton that you could go to, as well as the provided study areas in many off-campus accommodations. There’s no shortage of accessible places to study as a group.

Take breaks.

Not working is bad, but constantly working is just as terrible. Make sure to give yourself a break now and then. Once you’ve finished something, don’t force yourself to immediately move onto the next task.

Stress tends to pile up. If you go so long without taking the time to relax and have fun, this can not only make you too exhausted to put out quality task responses, but also severely affect your mental health.

You’re only at University for a few years, so you should enjoy it while it lasts. There are plenty of things to do in Cambridge; sightseeing, clubbing and partying, going out to eat, or having fun at the park.

There’s a strong student culture in our city, so you’ll always be able to find someone to meet or have fun with. Anglia Ruskin hosts regular parties on and off campus. You’ll also find people promoting parties at certain clubs near the campus entrance, so it’s hard to miss out.

If you ever feel that you’re having a hard time adjusting to university or keeping up with the workload, there are counselling services nearby such as Centre 33 and Cogwheel Trust.

Going to university may seem tough, but with these things in mind, you’ll be able to survive the semester just fine. Good luck, and have fun here in Cambridge!

Sabine Elbereth Buhain
BA (Hons) Illustration and Animation (Extended)

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