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Letter to My First Year Self

Dear Fresher,

Make the most of your first year at Durham. While you still need to pass and trying your best will set you up for the second and third year, don’t stress too much about your workload and try to have fun while you can! Trust me, by the time you get to the third year the things you were worried about in the first year will seem trivial.  Here are the things that I wish I’d known when I was 19.

Try new things

Get involved.  By the time you get to the third year, trust me, you’ll be glad you made the most of your university experience. Go to the fresher’s fairs, sign up for lots of sports and societies, and most importantly give it a go. There’s nothing worse than getting to the third year, realising you have no time, and thinking “you know, I wish I had tried rowing in the first year”. You may not enjoy everything you do but at least you will not wonder “what if ?”

On that note, make time to see friends and meet new people. I know the first year may seem daunting, but you will never have as much free time as you do now. Do that film night, go to the college event, have that much-needed catch up over coffee; you’ll be surprised how much more motivated to work you’ll feel after you’ve taken a proper break. Don’t feel like you can’t talk to those people in your lecture just because freshers week is over and you don’t think it’s socially acceptable anymore, some of the best friends I’ve made I didn’t start to speak to properly until the second year!

Equally, make time for yourself. While trying new things is great, if they aren’t for you, don’t make them a commitment and take time to do things you enjoy instead. Don’t feel guilty for reading a book just because it isn’t for your module or for binge-watching that show that you really enjoy!

Friends for life

Save yourself the stress of last-minute cramming by collating your notes after lectures and finding which style works for you. It makes it SO much easier to revise come exam time. I spent so much time handwriting out gorgeous notes in the first year and now in the third year, I just make sure all my lecture slides with notes are filed efficiently by module and lecturer in convenient places on my laptop. Different things work better for different people but this method has saved me SO much time and print credits!

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Speaking to other people on your course about the content can help you understand the material from someone who will likely explain it differently than your lecturer. The reading lists have a range of material that can help contextualise your learning too. Most lecturers have office hours, make the most of them if you have any questions or concerns about the material or anything you may need help with. Plus, by being in contact with your lecturers you’re more likely to have decent references for future jobs or education if they actually know who you are!

Most importantly…  Have fun!


An exhausted third year! x

Sophie Johnson

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