Things I Wish I Knew Before Uni

19 year old me on a night out in my first year. Those drinks on the table may contain alcohol.

So, its that time of year when the fresh faced firsties appear and cluster about in little giggling groups. Its been 10 years since I went to uni (I DON’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT HOW OLD I AM) but it doesn’t seem so long ago that I was being dropped off in my first halls room, with my mum crying because it looked like a prison cell.

  • You don’t have to go to uni to succeed.

I know, that seems like an odd thing to tell you. But it really isn’t. I went to a school where you were encouraged to do lots of GCSE’s, then stay into Sixth Form, then go to uni. There was very little discussion if you were reasonably academic on what the other choices were besides sixth form (and then uni).
Uni isn’t for everyone. Some of the most intelligent, interesting – and yes, because it is important to some people – well paid people I know did not go to uni or did not complete a degree. In certain areas, it may be more beneficial to do an apprenticeship or a job where you can get study support. I enjoyed my time at uni, but perhaps if I hadn’t gone, I could be a fully (or part) qualified accountant by now. If you know what you want to do as your career, consider how else you can get to that point.

  • Extreme Couponing isn’t just a crazy show (but it is awesome)

In my first year at uni, I thought I did pretty well with money. That was until the finance department got in touch with me before Easter holidays and said they hadn’t taken any money for accommodation and could they have £2000 now, please. I didn’t have internet banking on that account and my statements were going home, so I just assumed everything had been coming out as it should. I mean, I’d signed mandates so they could take the money, so they should have taken the money, right? Stupid, stupid me.
Keep a close eye on your bank. I know, its boring as hell. But you know what’s more boring? Eating 5p noodles for a month because its all you can afford. (If you do end up in that situation, make sure you’ve got a bottle of Sriracha sauce in the cupboard to make it bearable. Also, knowing when the local supermarket marks down its fresh products is always a good thing.)
For budgeting advice, you should subscribe to A Thrifty Mrs’ awesome blog, and at the very least, the MoneySavingExpert weekly email.

  • Uni isn’t all about studying…

There are so many things you can do at uni that aren’t about going to lectures and tutorials. In my first year, I didn’t join anything, and it was rubbish. In my second year, I joined a few things, but it was joining Nightline ( in my final year that really made me happy. I joined thinking that I wouldn’t be much help for anyone, and it was difficult sometimes (especially considering what was going on in my personal life at the time!) but I look back at that time fondly, and it introduced me to some of my favourite people. If you only do one thing at uni, help Nightline.

  • …but ffs, STUDY.

Everyone tells you that the first year isn’t that important, and that you only have to get 40% to pass. True. But the first year is the basis for what you learn in the rest of your time there. It’s so tempting to stay out all night, every night, especially if it’s your first time away from home, but the first year of uni is designed to train you to work at an undergraduate level, rather than a Sixth Form level. If you scrape a pass in your first year, you may struggle later on.

  • Talk, talk, talk

I still struggle with talking to people in new situations, but in your first week of uni, you are on your own, and you need to socialise. You will meet a lot of people in that week, and you will constantly be asking and answering the same questions: Where are you from, what did you get in your A Levels, what are you studying and which halls/which area do you live in. You probably won’t see some of these people ever again. Alternatively, you might end up finding some of your closest friends – I met some of my favourite people at the welcome event held by my school!
While it’s important to talk to your new friends, don’t forget your old ones, and especially don’t forget your parents! They’ll appreciate a call at least once a week, even if you’re always emailing or Facebook-ing them. Going to uni for the first time is a major point in your life, but it’s also pretty important to your parents!

What would you want to tell 18 year old you before going to uni?

Popping The Bubble

As quite a few of the Aber lot are posting blog posts about this, it’s got me thinking as well.

Whilst I loved Aber for the time I was there, theres a very good reason why I’ve not been back since I graduated – because I want to keep it in that happy little bubble.

If I go back, I’ll point out everything thats different, I’ll be sad that the people I loved aren’t there (even if we went back as a group, we’d be staying in a hotel, how can you compare that to kipping on someones floor or staggering up the hill at 4am?) and – this might sound oddest of all – I don’t want to go there with Alex. (Yes, its nice that I don’t have to explain certain Aber stuff, but Alex wasn’t part of *my* Aber life, so it would be wrong to be there with him.)

There’s no more Beggars night (how shit faced could you get spending less than 50p a drink – as it turned out, very, because that was first year, and Beechings did shots of tequila for 50p.) No more Y Bae (a scummy shit pub but cheap and opened late). Not even The Glen, which closed in second year, ending skanky dancing and all you could eat and drink for £10.

But I love what I have now, I love that so many of the Aber lot are around the Bristol area, or a reasonable journey away. I love that when we all get together for a wedding or whatever, nothing has changed that much in the group. I even love that things like Twitter and Facebook have made it easy to stay in contact.

I love Aber, but you won’t find me going back any time soon.

Forgetting Enron

I was talking with the guys at work about some auditing stuff on Monday – its time for the BIS external audit – and one of the guys was trying to remember which of the Big 4 companies would be auditing us. “I’m sure its Sarbanes Oxley” he said. Being the SOx nerd I am, I corrected him automatically.
“Sarbanes Oxley is actually the legislation that was brought into place in 2002 in America, mainly as a reaction to the corporate governance failures that lead to the collapse of companies such as Enron and Arthur Anderson”
This little spiel just sort of fell out of my mouth in a burst, without a thought. The guys looked at me oddly.
“Ah, we forget you actually know stuff”
And sometimes, I do. My job at the moment doesn’t require any use of my degree, but one of my favourite companies to study at uni was Enron. It all started in first year, when Louise and I were sitting in Cafe Perv, sipping on mochas between lectures, and reading the newspaper. There was an article about a new book that was coming out – Pipe Dreams – and it gave a brief overview of who Enron was, and what had happened. This really interested me for some reason, and I started to read more and more.
In second year, I took an auditing module mostly because Enron was the case study and coursework. My friends were just as pleased as I was about this, because they knew I had a stash of Enron related books at home.
I recieved a first for that essay, along with a note from the lecturer basically saying that there was stuff in my essay that he had to look up to check on! Thats when you know you have a problem.
Even now, I smile when I see a story or a TV show referencing the Crooked E. I was just as upset when I heard about Ken Lay’s (the CEO of Enron) death as I was when I heard about Heath Ledgers. Oddly enough, Monday nights episode of the Simpsons – Special Edna – had this rollercoaster in it…well, I don’t need to explain it to you when theres a YouTube link!

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