What advice would you give yourself if you had to start university again? Volunteer blogger, Vanessa Silvera, looks back on her own time at St Andrews in order to impart some wisdom to new students.
The thought of starting uni can stir up a whirlwind of emotions for incoming freshers, and I was no exception. Looking back, I remember the nerve-wracking lead-up to Fresher’s week as an exciting but daunting time. Uni can represent different things to different people; for me, it was the first stop on a one-way train headed to adulthood and there was no getting off. Once I arrived at St Andrews, my fears gradually subsided as I adapted to my surroundings and began meeting my classmates.
However, that doesn’t mean it was always easy. Uprooting your life, leaving the comfort of your home and, as an overseas student, moving to a foreign country comes with its own set of challenges. Now, I will share a few words of advice I wish I could tell my eighteen-year old self.
- Get involved – This one seems pretty obvious. That being said, I cannot stress the importance of participating in student life. You are only here for a short time, so make it count. Unless you want all your memories to consist of late nights in the library, put yourself out there. There’s something for everyone: sports clubs, over 150 student societies to choose from, hall events, not to mention several unique traditions you can partake in. These are all great ways to meet people and, as clichéd as this might sound, make memories to last a lifetime.
- Use your resources – One of my biggest regrets from first year was not fully taking advantage of all the resources at my disposal. If you’re stuck on that essay or leave lecture with a lot of questions, drop by your tutor’s office hours. And don’t forget CAPOD, a free service that provides tutoring for academic and study skills including time management, citing and referencing, exam preparation and so on. For emotional support, I strongly recommend getting in touch with Student Services or the St Andrews Nightline as soon as you need it. Don’t wait.
- Focus on the present – I know, easier said than done. Speaking from experience, once school starts I’m so busy and overwhelmed that I often forget to enjoy myself. Although planning for the future is necessary, you’ll be much happier when you decide to prioritize paying attention to the present. Instead of ruminating on the past or preoccupying about what’s to come, pause for a moment to take in your surroundings and assess your state of mind. Tuning in rather than tuning out will change your life for the better at uni and beyond.
- Travel when you can – You might be thinking: I can’t afford that. Cost is a common and understandable reason not to travel. Nonetheless, if done the right way, your dream holiday is within reach. Book in advance and you’ll find incredible deals on round-trip flights to the continent through travel search engines such as Kiwi.com. Furthermore, staying at an Airbnb is an excellent alternative to pricey hotels in the city centre. While it’s probable you won’t be getting away every weekend, the bottom line is if you want to travel it will depend on you to make the time. Even if you don’t go far, a change in scenery could do you some good.
- Best coffee in town – Everyone has their favorite, but in my opinion every café in town has its merits. For Wi-Fi, Rector’s Café and the Old Union are best. For ambience, I suggest either Taste, located on North Street, or the Cottage Kitchen. If you seek the most scenic locale, the café at the Golf Museum will not disappoint with its stunning views of West Sands and the Old Course. In terms of taste, I personally love Zest Café and Costa, but you’ll most likely find me at Starbucks sipping my Pumpkin Spice Latte.
About Vanessa Silvera
Vanessa is a third year studying Art History at the University of St Andrews. Her favourite artistic movements include the Italian Renaissance, Impressionism / Post-Impressionism and Surrealism. Aside from art, she is passionate about travel, dance, yoga, women’s rights, fashion, and anything with chocolate.