Starting university – some practical tips

Posted October 13, 2011, by Elissa Collier

Once the hype of O-week has died down and you’re due to start your first class, you might be feeling a little confused (and maybe slightly hungover!) about what to actually bring to university and how to find your way around. We’ve got some practical information and tips on all you need to know about your first week of university classes.

Finding your way around campus

Uni can be almost like a small town or village, with shops, pharmacies, bakeries, cafeterias, travel agents, newsstands and, of course, bars. Make sure you familiarise yourself with the buildings where your classes will be before the first day – you don’t want to turn up to class late and have everyone, including the lecturer, stare at you as you slink in!

If you attend O-week, they will have guided tours of the university campus. These are a great idea as it’s much easier to have someone tell you where everything is rather than have to work it out for yourself. Try and get hold of a map of the campus (also available at O-week, or on the uni website) – you’ll probably find your way fairly quickly but it’s good to have something to refer back to as your classrooms will change each semester.

Most universities have a central quadrangle or main area where people hang out, eat lunch and socialise. The library is also an essential place to have on your list of places to find – you’ll probably wind up spending a lot of time there and some students practically live in the stacks. There are normally different libraries for different faculties, so make sure you know which one is relevant to your course.

Buying textbooks

One of the first things you need to organise for uni is your textbooks. Unlike high school, you will have to purchase your own books for uni and sometimes they’re not cheap. Each new class and semester usually calls for different books, so over four years this can really add up! Depending on your course, books can cost anywhere from $10 to $150 per book.

Each course will come with a reading list that will tell you the chapters and required reading you need to do for each class. Class reading is very important as it prepares you for the work covered in the lectures. The teacher will assume you’ve completed it each week – if you don’t do it, you run the risk of turning up with no idea of what’s going on.

Textbooks can be purchased from the uni bookshop, various places online, and sometimes other bookshops. If you’re a little low on cash you could look at buying the books second-hand or from another student who has finished the course. If you decide to do this make sure that you don’t purchase an old edition! New editions of textbooks are coming out all the time and they can have some changes, so be aware of this.

Sometimes it’s a good idea to hold off on buying the textbook until after you’ve been to the first week of classes to see if you will really need it for the duration of the course. Also, the textbooks will always be in the uni library, so if you only need it for a short time, you could borrow it from there, or photocopy the pages you need.

Whatever you decide to do, factor the cost of textbooks into your university financial budget. You don’t want to run out of money for the important things … like drinking and socialising!

What to wear and what to take

There is no dress code for university. The key to choosing your uni wardrobe is comfort. Sometimes you may be sitting in the same uncomfortable chair in a lecture theatre for two to three hours, so you want to make sure your clothes are comfortable. Flip-flops, trackie daks, hats, scarves – anything goes on campus! However, check your classes – if you’re doing laboratory work you may need to wear closed-toe shoes.

A definite must-bring is your student card – this is used for any number of things like borrowing books from the library or to pay for photocopies. You usually get your student card from the uni during O-week.

It’s also a good idea to take your textbooks and reading for that week to class, and a pen and paper to take notes. Some lecturers post lecture notes on the Internet before the lecture, so it’s a good option to print these out and take them with you. It makes following the lecture much easier! Some students also record lectures so they can replay them and make study notes afterwards.

Also, take a bottle of water – you must keep hydrated, especially if your class takes a few hours.

Who to ask for help

All universities will have a student organisation, or union, which consists of a board of student representatives. They are the ones who organise O-week, parties and events, clubs and societies, student news and magazines, and much more. If you find yourself stuck about anything, from where to buy your lunch to how to cope with uni financially, they will do what they can to help. The student organisation is there to support and provide you with anything you need, and to make your uni life more fun – so don’t be afraid to use them!

Keep motivated

The number one thing about going to university is to keep motivated! It’s only a few years of your life – it’s great fun and you’re furthering your education and career prospects, as well as making lifelong friends. Make the most of your time there and you will experience some of the best years of your life.

Elissa Collier

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