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Tips for first year students


What is student life really like?

As we near the mid-point of 2017, things are likely starting to settle down a bit for this year’s crop of newly minted students. You’re probably feeling a bit less conspicuously fresh on campus, but beware: one semester doesn’t make you a pro. The below tips apply to you just as much as they do to those Year 13ers casting a nervous eye in 2018’s direction. Theo Larmer-Cottle tells it like it is.

Living at home vs flatting

Theo has one semester left to complete his BA, majoring in history and ancient history, and has lived at home through most of his degree but is about to move into a flat. He says living at home really helps with saving money, “which is essentially why I decided to stay home. You do miss out on the uni vibe a bit though. It’s really just a balance between how rich you want to be and how much fun you want to have.”

O Week

Course materials

New students are given a list of course materials needed, but Theo recommends waiting to see if you actually need them. “I rarely bought course materials unless they were absolutely crucial, which they rarely were. Most people I went to uni with did the same.” But for the materials you do need, Theo suggests Facebook as a good place to buy second-hand if you want to save money.

Working while studying

Like many students, Theo took on a part-time job to help fund his degree. He has worked for the past few years in customer services at Lotto NZ’s call centre, a role he found through Trade Me Jobs. “That’s probably the best place to find jobs. I know a lot of people use StudentJobSearch but I never made any headway through that, so if anyone out there is looking for a job I would recommend Trade Me.” He admits it’s not easy to work your way through uni but says it was worth it in the end.

“Working it around my studies is probably not the phrase I would use, I would say I just kind of adapted to it. Basically, money equals life, so just get the max hours you think you can do and wing it.”

Transport and food

To save money on public transport, Theo says the tertiary discount (at least 35 per cent) that can be uploaded on to an AT Hop card is probably the best bet. “It can save quite a lot of money. Foodwise, it’s tricky to say, because everything is pretty expensive but there are a couple of sushi places around uni that can be quite cheap. Either that or just buy a loaf of bread to get you through the week.”

What to wear

Is there a secret dress code when it comes to what to wear to uni? Theo’s answer might be considered a predictable male reply. “Preferably clothes.” For clarification, I checked in with a female student. “People use uni as a time to express themselves,” says Olivia, “and you can pretty much get away with anything. Some people wear super-nice clothes and makeup, and some literally go to lectures in their pyjama pants. But I’d say a comfy pair of jeans is essential, something you can put on quickly when you wake up late and have to be at uni for an 8am class.”

Study groups

Theo says study groups can be helpful, but you need to study with the right people. “I studied with a close mate of mine all the time in classes we shared and that was super-helpful, but I’m not really one for studying with complete strangers. A lot of classes set up study groups, which are usually set up through Facebook, but that was never for me.”

Student social media groups

Facebook is also the place to go for student social media groups, which can be useful for finding out what to do and when an assignment is due. “I really just used them so everyone else could ask the stupid questions that I didn’t want to ask,” says Theo. “They are semi-helpful. The stage 1 Facebook groups are very helpful but stage 2 and 3 people just can’t be bothered.”

Final words

“Don’t overthink anything, and do whatever you like. Uni isn’t something to be scared of, it’s a pretty liberating experience. So just wing it and you will have fun. I cannot stress enough how much better uni is than school.”

By Raewyn Court



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