Guys, I didn’t update for Week 9. Want to know why? I didn’t do anything worth mentioning. If you want to find out about the rest of my week, check my personal blog.
To continue on from my previous post about results – this assumes you’re a new student and are starting to wonder; what happens now?
Preparing to move into halls
The wonderful RSM
When you are packing, do not pack anymore than you need. My skeleton list of what I consider important is:
- two sets of bedclothes; one for on the bed, one for while the other is in the wash.
- two towels; same as above.
- clothes that you know you will wear; for the first two terms you need a few summery things for the rare warm day, but the rest of the time you need warm things. Thick soled shoes and a good coat are a must. For the summer term, summery stuff and a few warm things (the weather is unpredictable). Comfort is the key word here – when you are going to be revising long and hard hours in the library or halls, you want to be comfortable doing it.
- some smarter clothes; even if you think you won’t go out, you will find that your fellow students make you feel like you are never smart enough, even if you’re not too shabby at the moment. If you think you won’t go clubbing or to a party at least once, think again (unless you shut yourself away; but why would you do this?). It doesn’t matter if you don’t drink/haven’t been to parties at home – going out, whether it’s to a nice restaurant or Tiger Tiger for a night out is an intrinsic part of it all.
The Summer Ball
formal wear; the chances of you going to a ball/formal event in the first few weeks of term are high. If you have enough at home to bring two or three dresses (as a girl) then feel free, but don’t forget that you are in London and can always buy them here if you need a new/different one.
- some mugs; tea, cup-a-soup, pen holder, it’s all good.
- some glasses; squash, orange juice, alcohol. Four is about right. You will break most of them before the year is up
- plates and bowls; two at least. You will always have nights/mornings where you didn’t do the washing up the night before and need something clean to eat from, and it’s quite likely you will share a meal with someone.
- cutlery; the same number as plates and bowls.
- a wooden spoon; for stirring, haha.
- a couple of pans for cooking; rice/pasta and meat. If you’re going to get clever about cooking, wait till you get here before you buy everything; you don’t know what you’ll use beforehand, and if you buy too much the chances of it getting nicked or lost because you aren’t using it anyway are much greater.
- two good knives; for cutting meat/veg.
- a good student cookbook; or ask me for recipes, hahaha! I recommend “Hard Up and Hungry”
- stuff to remind you of home; I printed out 150 photos and covered the pinboard in my room with them. It was amazing.
Cooking of the type we never attempted in halls.
I was in Garden and Weeks halls, and we didn’t have much storage. Lucia again raises a valid point – check the website for wherever your accommodation is really carefully. It may be really silly things like do you have a desk-lamp, or other, more important things, like is it a double or single bed? Relevant Facebook groups are useful, and there should be one for whichever halls you get into. They will answer questions on how many shelves your cupboard has, or if there is a lift to get all your stuff up to the fourth floor…which on the day you move in, is a big thing to know!
For working/studying, I recommend you decide how you are going to file things before you start term. I keep all my lecture notes in big files, and divide them into sections for each module. This seems a silly thing now, but when it gets to the end of the year and you have a years worth of lecture notes to store up, you need them to be organised so you don’t find out you’re missing a load or can’t work out what goes where for revision. A laptop is always useful, but there are loads of computers in college if you don’t have one. Other than that, pens and paper are the only thing you really need. With all the recommended books, don’t buy them unless you are feeling really rich – one textbook is normally around £30, and if I had bought every book I was recommended up to this point, I would have spent around £2000. The library is well stocked, and for Imperial I don’t think I know of any course where you are supposed to have read everything on the book list before you arrive. Or anything, for that matter.
Text books...note the excitement on her face....
If you are doing Materials, to completely contradict what I just said, you will need William McAllister “Introduction to Materials Science and Engineering”. If you can find some oldies who have graduated/don’t want them anymore, try that instead of getting a new one. Facebook groups might be a good place to source it. This goes for any course where you decide you absolutely must have the book; check if you can get it second hand first.
Don’t take anything extra (but definitely don’t take my lists as law, I’m sure there are other places that have better ones). You just won’t use it, and when you are moving in and out of halls, the less stuff the better. You Collect throughout the year anyway – when I moved out of halls at the end of that year I had a massive variety of stuff that I had taken and hadn’t used, or that I had bought just for the sake of it (the cactus that met its death down the back of a radiator, the yellow swirly thingy from Mayors Day and my brothers massive speakers come to mind). Most significantly, there are things that you just won’t use. A list of things that you definitely do not need (Imperial College specific)
- an iron; all the halls have them, and you aren’t allowed to use them in your rooms anyway.
- a rice cooker; seriously, you can cook rice in a pan. If you want a load of cooking contraptions, wait till second year when you move out and have a bit more space. You don’t have enough in halls to be messing around with it.
Whatever you think, you WON'T need a full tea-set.
a million books, teddies, ornaments, pillows etc; I speak from experience. I brought all my Harry Potter and Twilight books (you all know I’m cool, stop being shocked about it), a load of DVDs, pillows, blankets, blah blah blah fishpaste…I didn’t read any of the books, the DVDs got transferred to one of those DVD cases which holds like 100 before long, and the pillows and blankets spent most of the year on the floor because I couldn’t be bothered to make my bed prettily everyday, especially when running to lectures with five minutes to spare. Moving in and out is a pain in the backside, and if you have a load of clutter it will be harder to make your living space comfortable. Don’t forget, your room at uni becomes your bedroom, study, lounge, music room, whatever other rooms you might have in your house that aren’t contained within the communal areas of halls.
Do some preparation if you’ve been given reading lists etc (if you’re coming to IC, start brushing up on your maths, because you will be given a test, and you stand a good chance of failing if you are anything like me – that first maths test in the first week of First Year was the first test I’d ever failed…great introduction to university!).
After 3/4 years, Buckingham Palace virgins see it for the first time. Don't let this be you!
A tricky thing to discuss with your parents is money. We budgeted on £90 a week for everything (after the rent was paid). If you’re not too extravagant, it works. I would say about £40 for food, and more if you are going to be buying alcohol. Travel gets expensive (at least £10 a week) and you should see the sights of London if you’re here. Don’t do what John did, and only see Buckingham Palace for the first time the day your degree finishes! You’re in London, take advantage of it. The rest goes towards toiletries, study materials, and the small entertainments you need to keep you going – whether it’s a new DVD or a trip up to Aberdeen to see your best friend. Obviously this depends on your own financial situation, but this is the figure we worked around.
It’s important to remember that you spend a load of money at the beginning of term, especially if you get here and decide you are going to become a master chef and need a load of stuff, or if you buy enough stationary to last the year (I’m thinking in particular of files and folders). The few books you do buy will probably be bought in the beginning.
Freshers Week (known as “Welcome Week” at IC)
Friends at the Summer Ball
Put yourself out there. I was never great with people – but I forced myself to talk to everyone and make some friends. Don’t forget, they are all in the same situation as you. I know you’ve probably heard this and are sick to death of it, but it is actually true. The people you meet in the first weeks make a lasting impression; I ended up living with four of them, and we are still all friends now.
Things for me were a bit different, because Tom, Ashton and I all came to the same place at the same time – and Charlotte was one of my hall seniors.
However, the friends I have on my course (with the exception of Ashton) are all ones who I met in this week (Patrick and Lucia in particular – “equi-ax-ed”, Potter Puppet Pals, the same tutor group and so on). We are still good friends now, and it might not have happened if we hadn’t made the effort to all get to know each other in the first few weeks. I’m not saying this is true for everyone, but it is for a lot of people.
Try do some stuff as well. I did all my halls events, notably winning a sticker competition and a massive box of Quality Street. We also deviated and did a ‘Monopoly’ walking tour across Central London, and explored Hyde Park a bit. (I didn’t do any drinking, and I had a great time anyway.) We scoped out all the local shops, learned how to use the tube system, and started experimenting with some cooking. Yes, I did get sent to hospital for cutting the top of one of my fingers off in the first week. It’s part of the experience!
My housemates, all Floors 5/6 of Weeks Hall in First Year
For clubs and societies, sign yourself up to everything you like the look of, go along to a couple of sessions, and decide what you want to do. This is a good time to learn a new skill – dancing, horse riding, juggling, the fine art of drinking tea, debating…Imperial is noted for its vast number of clubs and societies, and there is no point in ignoring it. It’s a wonderful way of making more friends and what’s more it could become your career! (If I fail at life in science, blogging is clearly the best option for me….OK I’m not arrogant, honest, just my little joke…)
If you are religious and want to go to church, there are a few good’uns around South Kensington. Holy Trinity Brompton springs to mind!
Fresher's Materials Friends off to buy cake
It can be expensive, with the Fresher’s Ball, various events with halls (we went to a Chinese, ice-skating and to see “We Will Rock You”) and the probable eating out that comes with the first week you’ve lived alone, ever. Budget for it. When it comes to thinking about notorious student drinking, try remember that if you get absolutely hammered and make a fool of yourself on the first night, it may not be the best way to get to know people. I’m not saying don’t drink, but keep it all in moderation. It’s very easy to let go and make a bad impression, which will stay with you for a very long time.
Most of all, enjoy not having any worries for your course, and having the chance to get to know people without having any coursework yet, or lecture notes to write up – it’s the only time in your whole university career that you have this luxury.
What advice do you have for first year?
Mucking around in Nandos
Make the most of it. Get to know people, try something new, enjoy your independence. Don’t let go of your academics though. You’ve come to Imperial to get a degree, so you should keep that in mind when you get invited to go clubbing at 11 pm on a Monday night.
You will miss your family and home-friends, a lot (they get that distinction now. He isn’t Matt anymore, he’s home-Matt, and the other one is uni-Matt). Don’t let it ruin your time. You’ll see them again, promise! You can do weekend visits and spend time on the phone. The halls environment is quite intense and remember that taking some time out, whether it’s just a lone walk in Hyde Park or a night staying in your room and watching rom-coms (yes men, I’m talking to you), can be completely healthy. If you feel alone and completely wretched, counselling services etc are available (yes, I used the IC one, and yes, it did help).
Project group for third year, working hard
Do your coursework, and go through lectures (even if you aren’t goody-goody enough to write them up, something I’m allowed to say because I wrote up every single one). It will make a huge difference to your grades and also your understanding, which is more important (who knew?). You can rattle off a lab-report in 6 hours, which is nothing if you consider how long a science project at school used to take, and given that it can contribute a huge amount to your final grade for each year, it’s worth it. I’ve had quite a few people say to me “If only I’d realise our lab-reports counted to our final grade, I would have worked harder on them”. Also, most courses are really unforgiving on a coursework front. You have the option to retake an exam, but if you fail coursework that is normally it (provided you don’t have extenuating circumstances). Having worked out how to write lab-reports, you can then go on to doing bigger courseworks in second year, and final projects in final years. It’s all vital, and I know it may be boring compared to going out five times a week, but let’s be honest – you’re here to study too.
Just about to gallivant through Hyde Park.
Don’t go overboard on working either though. You need fun. We went through the “Sainsbury’s epiphany” while we were in first year; Tom and I were both totally stuck on coursework, and getting really frustrated about it. We worked on it for hours and hours and hours, one problem in particular on Tom’s lab report being horrendous. Eventually I got sick of it and suggested we go to “Little Sainsbury’s” for a snack. As we got to the shop, Tom suddenly worked out the solution to the problem, and it would probably have happened a lot sooner if we had just taken a break earlier. Whenever either of us is doing a similar thing now, we refer back to that moment, and remember that it can be more helpful to not work on a problem for a bit.
The most common thing I had to cope with in first year was “It’s too hard, I can’t do it, I don’t know how to feed myself, I don’t know how to reference my lab report”. If quitting straight out was considered, I also considered what would have happened if I were still in Devon. I’d be working behind a bar, in the same old country lanes, meeting the same old people, seeing the same old sights and doing absolutely nothing new. A few years of hard graft, meeting some of the most amazing people you’ll ever know, and more than a handful of late nights and long parties are totally and absolutely worth it.
And if you don’t believe me, I really thought I couldn’t cope with student life – I’m now planning on a PhD.
I'm going to be a SCIENTIST!