My name is Scott Groom and I’m currently in my third year studying Journalism here in Derby. I am your Digital Student Ambassador for the college of Humanities and I’m based mainly at the Markeaton Street campus, but I sometimes pop up to Kedleston Road as and when I need to.
Unfortunately for me, my time at university will soon be coming to an end, which is very much so a bitter-sweet feeling as I’ve loved every minute of being here and don’t want it to end. However, at the same time, I’m really excited about going out there into ‘the real world’ and beginning my career in the world of Journalism. Scary stuff!
Being in my position of having a wealth of uni experience, I thought that this would be the perfect opportunity for me to impart some wisdom onto you to help you make the best start to your life at the University of Derby as possible.
The biggest worry for a lot of people, as it was for me, was leaving home and living independently for the first time. I’d be lying if I was to tell you that it’s easy, because it’s not. It’s obviously a very daunting prospect and the thought of having to wash up, iron, cook for yourself and look after yourself when you’re hung-over doesn’t seem too appealing. But the pros far outweigh the cons. It’s tough being away from your family, friends and familiar surroundings, but it’s so exciting and enjoyable. I remember really looking forward to figuring out where to go in Derby, as I’m only from a small town, and meeting my new course mates and flat mates. You also learn so many life skills from living independently that you actually start to sympathise with your parents. All of those times that they moaned about how many things they had to do around the house suddenly don’t seem so unreasonable anymore! For anyone who may feel home sick as I did, the best thing to do is to throw yourself into things. If someone asks you to go into Derby city centre with them, do it. If there’s a society meeting on that you like the look of, go. If your flat mates are all chatting in the kitchen, join them. Don’t isolate yourself, give yourself plenty to do and make yourself known to people around you.
The obvious move for most of you will be to go into Halls of Residence, which is a great choice because not only are you surrounded by people in exactly the same situation as you, but it’s just good fun, especially during freshers. There’s always something going on and you’ll surprise yourself at how many people you will end up meeting who live in the same flats as you. One of my biggest tips for the first week or so of being in Halls is to keep your door open. Your flat mates will come and pop their heads in and introduce themselves if it is, but how can they do that if your door’s closed? I remember being in my room at Princess Alice Court, sorting out a few things, when one of my flat mates appeared in my doorway. He came in and we chatted for almost an hour and got on famously. We have lived together every year since and we have a really good friendship, all because I left my door open.
Another piece of advice I’d give you is make the most of freshers. Looking back on it, it was probably one of the best two week periods (yes, freshers lasts for two whole weeks!) of my life. I’m not at all encouraging you to go out and get stupidly drunk every night and get yourself into all kinds of trouble, but it’s a really good opportunity to meet and bond with people. I met countless people during freshers and it helps you to feel more settled, as more faces around Derby will seem familiar to you.
During the second week of freshers, there is usually an induction timetable which you should receive in some way shortly before you move in or during your first week in Derby. It typically includes a library induction and some introductory seminars with your lecturers. These are another great opportunity for you to meet yet more new people, but it’s perhaps most important that you familiarise yourself with these people as you’re going to spending a few years in their company on your course! Not only that, but you’ll pick up some really useful bits of advice and information from your lecturers and learn how the library is set up, which is VITAL. Without the library, uni would be pretty tough, so make sure you attend those sessions.
Once the beautiful chaos of freshers is over, things start to settle down a little and lectures begin. I found my first semester incredibly engaging as I was learning things I’d never thought of before and I got really intrigued by various things. I started my background reading early on, and it’s something I’d advise you to do as well. As I said earlier, there are many life skills you learn when you come to uni, and time management is a crucial one to master. Although your deadlines in mid-December seem like a lifetime away at the start of the semester, they come around so much quicker than you think is possible. Remember what I said about sympathising with your parents? You’ll start sounding like them when deadlines roll around as well! Every semester I’ve had the ‘time just passes by so quickly when you get older’ conversation, and it genuinely does! So keep on top of your work, because even though you might be able to pull an all-nighter to finish your 2,000 word essay the night before it’s due in, believe me it won’t do you as much justice as working on it over a longer period of time will.
There’s one more thing I need to pass on some advice about, because it’s where so many people fall foul on a regular basis. At some point during your first few weeks, the day will come when your student loan drops into your bank account. It is, without question, one of the greatest feelings seeing your bank balance rocket. You feel a bit like Tony Stark: a stinking rich, untouchable human being who can have anything imaginable, including an Iron Man suit. Truth is, you can’t. That money has to pay for your accommodation first of all, and then what you’ve got left has to last you until January when the next loan payments are. If you don’t have a part-time job on the side, that’s it. That’s all you have left to buy food, buy books and other materials for your course, go out with and everything else that’s going to cost you money. Budgeting is up there with time management as one of the most important skills to master. When done properly, you will easily be able to live comfortably and have enough food in the cupboards at all times so you never go hungry. But if you’re foolish and treat yourself to a new wardrobe or some new XBOX games, you’re going to regret it.
Hopefully, these insights help you to make some more informed decisions and to settle in as quickly and smoothly as possible at the start of your time here at the University of Derby. Being at uni really is a fantastic experience, so I encourage you to make the most of it. The last thing you want to do is leave with any regrets!