My First Year at University Experience and Advice

Sunday, July 21, 2019

I genuinely can’t believe that I’ve finished my first year of university – it feels like only yesterday that I was packing the car full of my belongings, apprehensive about moving away from home. Despite being excited for the academic side of my degree, I was daunted by the thought of living away from home and the pressure of new responsibilities, being forced to make friendships and fend for yourself. But here I am, I survived it! Since quite a few people have asked me how I found my first year of university, I thought I’d share all of my thoughts and experiences in this post!

The Accommodation

Since I only decided to go to the University of Manchester last minute, I chose to stay in private accommodation, so I can’t speak on behalf of anyone staying in halls. I had a shared flat between myself and two other girls, but since they weren’t in that often I hardly struggled with clashing in the kitchen or bathroom, and everyone kept it quite clean and tidy. The girls were nice and I got on with them well, although we weren’t the close-knit group of best friends I initially hoped for as they were older, very different in personality and often did their own thing. If I’m completely honest, I didn’t deal with this well initially and felt as though there was a huge pressure to find friends for life in my flatmates, so I wish someone would’ve told me that it’s not the end to not click with your flatmates.

My uni room was honestly gorgeous, as it had a modern design, was spacious and had a lot of light, although the huge windows weren’t the best during the cold winter mornings. There wasn’t tons of storage and I added a couple of cupboard and storage boxes to compensate for this, but this is probably due to my ridiculous amount of clothes! I also made good use out of the on-site gym and used this quite frequently before exam season. Location-wise, I was ideally situated about a ten-minute walk away from my local shops and the bus route into the centre, as well as a twenty-five minute walk away from the university campus, and I definitely appreciated not having to rely on buses every day.

The Course

English literature is a huge passion of mine, so it’s no surprise that I really enjoyed the academic side of first year. In the University of Manchester, first year is aimed at providing a breadth of study and covering many aspects of literature, teaching us the basic skills and approaches needed for the remainder of the degree. I really enjoyed this variety, and it definitely helped to highlight which aspects I enjoyed and which weren’t my cup of tea. I also found there was a good balance between independent and taught work, with the lectures providing a preliminary base that led to productive discussions in seminars and my own wider research, and I liked being able to take this into my own hands.

Most of my modules for first year were mandatory, which meant that I got to try a variety of modules that I might not have otherwise considered. For my optional module I selected something from the world literature course (although there were many other options in a variety of subjects), and I found it incredibly eye-opening to learn about literature spanning the globe that I was previously oblivious to.

For all of you wondering if there’s a lot of reading, then it’s a no-brainer. On average, I’d say that I was reading three novels, plays or collections of poetry each week, as well as all of the wider contextual information and secondary criticism that was recommended. It goes without saying that if you’re not a fan of reading then this definitely isn’t the degree for you.

The Surroundings and City

I have honestly fallen in love with Manchester over the past year, and the bustling city has a never-ending selection of things to do and places to explore. I definitely don’t think I made the most of this in first year as I was adjusting to life in Manchester and finding my feet, and so I tended to stay in the more mainstream and popular areas. I’m really looking forward to finding some hidden gems in the city when I return in September and making the most of having everything right on my doorstep.

My Part-Time Job

I didn't have a part-time job whilst doing my A-Levels, and so starting uni was my first time having to balance studying with work. It took a while to adjust to, and if I'm completely honest I struggled to find the motivation and enjoyment to work in the first few months as I wasn't in the best place mentally. Now that I'm doing better, I genuinely enjoy my job and get along well with all of my colleagues, despite being the youngest. It's also incredibly rewarding to help people find the perfect book to indulge in and to rekindle their passion for reading. I work around 12-16 hours a week which is manageable for me, and although it does get quite hard balancing with uni and I give up all my weekends to work, it's a sacrifice I'm now used to.

Living For Myself

I was very apprehensive about this aspect of uni to begin with since at home I didn't take on a lot of these responsibilities. Apart from the odd meal, I'd never cooked anything at home that went beyond the microwave or toaster (although my boyfriend and I did try and experiment with a few meals over summer). I always presumed that I'd be a terrible cook, which is ironic as it's now one of the parts of uni that I enjoy the most. I really enjoy cooking meals and experimenting with new foods, especially since I can buy exactly what I like rather than eating what my whole family are. I've also been experimenting with vegetarianism and cutting out meat from some of my meals, and I've loved having a veggie burger or meat-free curry a few times a week.

The other responsibilities I faced in uni were honestly not as enjoyable, and little things like washing dishes, ironing and cleaning the flat have definitely felt like chores at times. Also, I soon realised how much I took for granted little things like having fresh towels, toiletries restocked etc. However, I feel as though it’s been good experience taking on all of these tasks and it’ll hopefully prefer me for living in a house next year.

The People

One of the best parts about uni has been meeting some amazing people that I’m so grateful for and I know will be in my life for a long time. When I first started, I was incredibly anxious that I wouldn’t fit in anywhere, so now looking back it’s really nice to see that I’ve made some amazing friendships and get along really well with the people on my course. I’ve also made some incredibly close friendships outside of my university, and the people who I’m living with next year are in a different uni to me, but we’ve ended up becoming really close. I’m definitely excited to meet even more people next year, and I also want to put myself out there more by getting involved in clubs and societies.

To sum it all up, first year has definitely been a journey that I’m incredibly grateful for, and I can’t wait for next year. If you’re in university I’d love to know what you thought of the past year and whether your experiences were similar to mine, so please leave me a comment letting me know!


  1. As I am planning to start university in September I found this post so useful!! The first uni I went to look at, nearly a couple of years ago now, was Manchester, and at the time I was still torn between studying History and English - their English course sounded really interesting so I bet you are really enjoying it! Great advice and sounds like you had a great year, I am also so obsessed with your new blog design, it's so lovely! I can't wait to read more posts from you, have definitely missed them! x

    Erin // Everything Erin

    1. I'm glad it was helpful! I can't wait to hear where you end up choosing when you get your results, and honestly you'll love uni! And thank you so much, I'm obsessed with yours too! x

  2. I genuinely believe that there is so much pressure to get on with everyone you meet when you travel off to university. Everyone always suggests that you find friends for life, and even relationships at university, which makes you truly struggle or question yourself when that isn't the case for you. Of course, you're not going to get along with everyone that you ever meet and that is completely fine. I totally understand your situation of living with those girls that you didn't really create such a bond with, but that's ok. I'm sure it was tough, especially when you first moved in. But don't let that bother you. You'll still have so many amazing opportunity to find people that you click with and get you, but they aren't necessarily the ones that you're closely surrounded with xx
    Amber |