Ask the Experts


Jenna Luxon speaks with volunteers from across the university to get their advice for this year’s freshers 

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Image by Luke Snell

By Jenna Luxon

With Freshers’ Week each year, comes the opportunity for us second and third year students to shake our heads, give a world-weary sigh and dish out our not-so-hard-earned advice to new students. Here at Nouse, we are no strangers to this. Indulging ourselves in ‘Ask the Editors’ pieces throughout the year, we regularly probe our editorial team for their advice and opinions on everything from how to get involved with campus life to debating the best takeaway (it’s Oki’s, by the way).

However, this year we decided to take a gracious step back from doling out our ‘expertise’ and instead speak to some actual experts - volunteers from across the university whose advice for how to deal with common freshers related issues is more well founded than ours.

Speaking with Langwith College Tutor Sam Haley and Nightsafe volunteers Chris Oldnall and Annabel McMahon, we have compiled advice on topics including academics, settling in and how to stay safe on your nights both out and in.

How to stay safe on a night out

York is an amazing place and city with lots of bars and restaurants to explore - currently they’re all following strict guidelines but you can play your part to ensure your own safety…
1.  Know your limits. ‘Drinks aren’t as strong in bars’ is a myth. If you’re worried about not having a drink in your hand whilst the others in your group do, consider getting a soft drink or a glass of water in between.

2.      Don’t do it for the ‘gram. It may seem like a good idea at the time to take a dip in the river or to pose on one of the jetties for a photo opportunity, but the river is by far one of the biggest dangers in the city centre. The best thing you can do to stay safe is to take routes that don’t go near the river and use well-lit paths.

3.  Mask up… one isn’t enough. Should you find yourself intoxicated it might be very easy to leave your mask behind, or (more honestly) for it to get slightly covered in vomit. It’s best to be safe than sorry and carry at least one spare with you.

How to cope with homesickness

Homesickness is one of the most common challenges students face but there are plenty of ways to overcome this completely normal feeling. Firstly, try to get more involved with student life. Joining societies you're interested in is a great start, and signing up to be a Course Rep is a good way of meeting like-minded people and getting to know more about what's happening on campus and how you can  be a part of it. Secondly, make your room a safe space where you feel at home and can easily relax and unwind. And finally, reach out to home. Regular calls with friends and family can make the distance between here and there seem a lot shorter.

How to stay safe when drinking at home

Drinking in the flat is a common thing for students to do, and it is generally quite safe. However, there are ways you can make it even safer...
1.  Learn the recovery position - This sounds really daunting, but it’s really simple to master, and should be used when you are putting someone, or yourself to bed. It is a safe way for someone to lie down and fall asleep with the least risk to themselves if they are intoxicated.

2.  Have some quick and easy snacks around. If you are feeling the drink hit you, have a glass of water and a slice of toast, or some breadsticks - anything carb-filled and quick. This will make you feel so much better, and you will thank yourself in the morning.

3.  If in doubt, get help. There are plenty of places to call for help on campus (security, 111, ambulance). Don’t be afraid to call for help if you think you need it. Better to be safe than sorry.

How to make friends

There are plenty of opportunities to make new friends while at York. Whether it's by signing up to one of YUSU’s 250+ clubs and societies, joining a sports team or becoming part of your College Community on their CSA/JCRC. Feeling shy or anxious about meeting new people is completely normal and everyone is in a similar position, especially during Welcome Week. Some great conversation starters are: asking someone about what college they’re in, what course they're studying, how they've found moving to York and what they're looking forward to this year. Asking open questions like these can really take the conversation in interesting directions, and you may find all sorts in common.

How to deal with peer pressure on nights out

Being at university is a new and exciting experience. Some people may brag about their alcohol tolerance being through the roof during lockdown - this doesn’t mean you have to feel like you need to catch up…
1.  Sometimes you just won’t fancy a night of drinking and that is fine. Don’t be afraid to stand your ground; you could suggest a different activity, or you could join in with the card games but only pour yourself water. There are times where your body just doesn’t want to drink and it is in those moments that you have to pay attention to yourself. Missing one night of drinking will not ruin your whole university experience.

2.  Our Nightsafe volunteers see people alone on nights out because they didn’t want to come but their friends forced them and now they are trying to get home alone. These people are putting themselves at risk because they did something they didn’t want to do. Don’t be that person.

  1. You’re not boring for not wanting to do that shot of pure vodka, and you’re certainly not a legend for chugging that half-a-litre of rum that could make you pass out when you were dared to. Remember, just because someone else dares you or plays ‘odds on’ for you to do something, you never have to do it.

How to balance studying and socialising

A really simplistic way of controlling your time is to use the 8-8-8 rule. This means that in the average day, you should have 8 hours of sleep, 8 hours of work and 8 hours of downtime / relaxation / self-care. This rule is a straightforward way of visualising your time - letting you see if you're spending too many hours working or if you need to think about your sleep pattern. Another handy trick for managing your time is to use your University Google Calendar as a planner, as it will already have your lectures and College events set up on it. Fill it in at the beginning of the week with time for yourself, when you're going to societies and when you're meeting up with your mates. Planning for the upcoming week allows you to better balance your time and see if you need to factor in more personal time if it’s going to be a really busy week!

How to overcome worries about your course

Worrying about your course is perfectly normal, especially for those students that are just arriving at University. It's important to understand that there's a huge amount of support in place at York to help you with your studies and really flourish academically. Your best point of contact for support in your Department is your supervisor. They can help you with making sure everything on your course is accessible and support you with any subject-specific issues. The Maths Skills Centre, Writing Centre and the handy Skills Guides are all fantastic resources to use to help better improve your academic skills and the teams that run all of them are always ready to help students to overcome any specific challenges they've run into while studying.