University: You have watched Fresh Meat, you have been to IKEA and your Mum has bought you a cookbook called ‘Things Students Cook’ to made sure you know how to boil an egg. You are not quite sure if you will need to do a trip to Rymans; do students even use pencils these days? And finally, you have brought your ‘Vote Green’ and ‘Legalise the Weed’ posters along to pin up, just to let everyone know that you are politically ‘right on.’ So now, here you are, twinkling eyes glinting in your pots and pans, ready to start the heady days of university.
You will have been getting advice left, right and centre from family, friends, people you dislike, boyfriends and girlfriends, teachers and the media. Having completed my first year of university, I can affirm that I am in fact the only person qualified to give any advice on university, and thus you should discard everything else everyone has said and take my word as gospel.
1. You are probably not normal. You will start off thinking you are normal. Accent, what accent? Doesn’t everyone call the third meal of the day supper? Since when did northerners call supper tea and lunch dinner? Does having a southern accent make people think you’re posh? Am I posh? Oh my god, I am posh. I’m so posh. Does having halloumi in my fridge make me posh? That is it Mum, bin the halloumi. Regional disparities start coming thick and fast: Mum and Mam, a’reet and hello, pet and love. Telling your flat that you ‘do not know how to work an oven, you are used to an AGA’ suddenly elevates your usual method of cooking to a stance on class politics. For so long you have breezed through life unaware, thinking that your existence was broadly the norm, that everyone was roughly like you. Pretty early on, you will do or say something seemingly innocent and realise that your behaviour/thoughts/experiences are not universal. This is a good thing.
2. Use a condom!
You might get parents who do that cool thing where they buy a large box of Durex, slip it in amongst all your copious packing and then leave it on your bedside table in an act of passive aggressive parental awkward affection. If so, great! If not, you are likely to be handed a healthy supply during Welcome Week in various goody bags. Make sure you use them, because even if they are banana scented, or packaged to promote a dodgy local club, they are sure to be sexier than herpes. Gonorrhoea, syphilis, chlamydia, HIV or even pregnancy are all possible if you dabble in unprotected sex, so best not to. But hey, if you do, best head to the fantastic Chalmers Sexual Health Centre, whose infinitely patient nurses will sort you out with eternal kindness.
3. Being rude and being interesting are not the same thing.
There will always be someone who, after every time you hang out, makes you ask yourself if you are boring. They never ask you any questions, always seem to love Beat poets and/or Sartre, are constantly playing the devil’s advocate and saying things like “it’s so fun to wind you up!” You’ll spend years trying to work this person out. You blame yourself. You try to change. You read On The Road and pretend not to hate it even though we all know it is rubbish sexist drivel. But it is never enough and you always feel slightly inadequate and undermined in their company. It is easy to mistake rude and narcissistic for interesting and engaging, especially if the pool of people who were sort-of-okay back in your town was about 10. Have faith that if someone makes you feel boring, it is most likely them who is the boring one.
4. Eat well.
Do a wash once in a while. Store food in appropriate places. Remember to ring your Mum/Dad/Nan/Gramps/Carers once in a while. Buy an appropriate coat: Edinburgh gets chilly. You probably do not need pencils from Rymans anyway – they give out free pens in Welcome Week. Have fun, be yourself and good luck.
Image credit: Kit