Welcome to the University of Kent: Advice for the Class of 2020

Image courtesy of: Tahmid Morshed

This year just does not seem to stop, and now with thousands of new freshers attending the University of Kent the year for many is just starting.

This term will be very different to those of previous years — the situation we are in is unprecedented. There are many changes on campus that affect all students and staff members. Guidelines for students living on campus or studying at home have been published online by the university. Amenities on campus have made new arrangements to prioritise safety and the prevention of the spread of COVID-19. The Drill Hall and Templeman Libraries will be open but on restricted hours, and face masks and student ID are also needed in order to enter. The Gulbenkian also is open for use but follows social distancing rules and restricted hours.

All these changes to day-to-day life have made me reflect on the past. I miss seeing all my family, partying and I miss not getting annoyed at myself because I have forgotten my face mask. I am sure this is the case for many. Unfortunately, this year will be challenging for freshers. There is already a lot to handle and this will be made harder with all the new rules in place. Still, try to make the most out of this year, because it will be the first year of the start of your life. I look back at my first year and recall so many memories; making new friends, losing friends and all the fun late nights in Park Wood. There are so many things I wish I could have told myself at the start of my university experience.

So, here is some advice for all you freshers. First things first, follow social distancing guidelines. The sooner we slow the spread of COVID-19 the quicker we can return to normality. Keep up to date with both the government and university’s policies — they are often changing, so try your best to stay in the loop.

If I could go back and give myself one piece of advice, it would be to seek help when I am struggling. For a while I was naive to the multiple programmes and trained professionals provided by the university to assist you in times of need. If you ever need guidance or support, speak to the Kent Student Support Team. You should never be ashamed to seek help. Whether you are having academic dilemmas, personal problems or struggling with your mental health, you can get outstanding support from the University of Kent.

Make sure to have fun in your first year. Even while following safety restrictions you can find ways to enjoy yourself. When you can try to socialise with others and meet new people. Try not to be shy, be confident in yourself. First year is your chance to experience new things, meet interesting people and to learn more about yourself.

Be respectful of those around you. Treat every member of staff and other students with respect, as a friendly campus is a good campus. Do not forget to also treat the people of Canterbury or Medway with the upmost respect. There is a stereotype of students being loud and messy, so avoid playing into that. Some locals have (unfortunately) already decided that students are a nuisance – there is no need to confirm their poorly held suspicions.

One of the benefits of being a fresher is the independence you gain when living away from home. For most of you this will be the first year of living away from home. You are now responsible for yourself, by way of cooking, shopping, cleaning, and working. However, it can get overwhelming at times. Try to budget. Be sensible when spending money and shop only when you need to. In first year, I (like many others) spent way too much on junk food, booze, and nights out. I would not recommend doing this. If you do find yourself struggling with your finances,, the university provide useful support. Knowing your expenses is a simple step towards becoming independent at university, and saving on needless costs now is the best way to have money for parties, travel and luxuries when they become possible again. . Although I was lucky enough to get a job in Canterbury, at first it conflicted with my university studies. After adjusting, it became easier to handle. Getting a job makes being financially independent easier, but will mean a lot of your time is taken away from your studies or your social life. It is not for everyone, but if you are looking at getting a job whilst studying visit the JobShop on the Kent Union website.

You should focus on your studies. Attending university is not cheap, so do not waste hours of learning by not turning up to lectures or seminars. Especially now, courses have been moved online so are even easier to attend. Complete all the readings and engage with your course. Taking your first year seriously will truly make it worthwhile. There is no such thing as a teacher’s pet, so go the extra mile with your work, and make sure to discuss content with your seminar leaders over email or through meetings. Most lecturers absolutely love the subject they specialise in, and will be all too happy to recommend secondary reading or just chat around their chosen topic! I have been a first year twice now, as I did not get on well with my initial course. After a few months I lost interest in the modules and lacked any motivation within the sessions. After contacting my Academic Adviser and school, I received the assistance needed to change my course. I found my true passion in first year, journalism, and accepted that my course did not fit the direction I wanted to go in. If you find yourself in the same situation do not panic, just seek advice and reach out to the relevant people. Try doing it as soon as possible, rather than leaving it to the last minute like me.

If you are new to living in Kent, then welcome. I have lived in Canterbury for 2 years and have made many fond memories. Kent is truly the Garden of England. So, when you get the chance go and explore the local area, from the various independent shops in the town centre, to stunning views of the city and fun seaside towns a short bus ride away. Walks especially are highly recommended – sometimes the best way to get out of your own head or mull over a topic is to have a wander. Spending time in nature is proven to help calm you down, and with outdoor activity one of the few really safe things to do with friends right now, there has never been a better time for a good woodland walk.

Stay on top of your health, hygiene, and diet. Living independently means you must cook and clean for yourself. Make sure to keep yourself clean and maintain a good personal hygiene. No one likes a smelly housemate. You also must think about your diet, remembering that balanced meals are key to keeping your mood stable and staving off any unwelcome illnesses.. Studying is hard, so keep yourself well nourished; even a bad chef can google a recipe online. There is only one you, so make sure to look after yourself. Many freshers ignore this advice but soon look back on their takeaway-filled first term with beer bellies and regret, especially as the costs of eating out too often really add up. Splitting the delivery fee of a supermarket order is often the cheapest way to get groceries, and lets you plan well-ahead with your meals.

This academic year will be challenging for everyone at Kent Uni. We all need to work together to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 so we can stay safe on campus. To every fresher who has just started this September, stay motivated and make the best out of every moment. Remember to seek help if you need it. Respect other students, staff, and residents. Focus on your studies, do the best you can and take part in as much as you can. Try to budget and save. Eat healthy and stay active. But most of all, enjoy yourself.

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