How To Survive First Year - A Guide

Art by Xuming Du


You’ve made it to uni. Accepted the enrolment offer and completed the relevant documentation, moved into your college room or figured out how to get to campus from your house in the Canberra ‘burbs. What’s next?

Well, from someone who had a bit of a tough time in their first year (I moved back home to take time off afterwards) here is some advice to help you avoid even considering that as an option:

Join Something

Whether it’s a club, sport, the Literature Society, or Engineering Students Association, these groups are a great way to branch out beyond the friendship group you’ve fallen into at college or know from school. Some of the greatest friends that I’ve made at uni, I’ve gotten to know through ANU Snowsports (shameless plug). Go to Market Day, suss the vibes, and be ready to sign up.

Connect with Yourself

There is so much going on all the time. Deadlines, college drama, doing your own laundry. Carving out some space to do something for you will be grounding and calming. My ‘me time’ in first year was going to the gym, doing a solo radio show at Woroni, and visiting the pool (sauna) in the late afternoon (when the sunlight streams through the windows).

Go to class (where COVID safe)

Even though rolling out of bed to go to that 9 am lecture is the least appealing thing anyone could imagine, turning up to class and seeing your lecturer and all the other students studying the same thing has a way of grounding you in the community and the experience of learning. A lecture buddy might turn into a lifelong friend, and your lecturer could be the recommendation you need to score a job later on. It won’t happen unless you turn up.

Ask for Help

There are so many unexpected challenges that come with being at university, and it’s impossible to navigate them all on your own. Reach out to the people around you: SRs, course reps, ANU Counselling, or the person who looks like they know where on campus they are. The ANU has a range of resources available for a myriad of situations, so don’t be afraid to make use of them.

(Try to) Develop Good Study Habits

I feel so boring recommending that you do your weekly reading before class, but that is how you’ll get the most out of the tutorials. Learning is incredibly fulfilling, and if you put in the work now, second, third, and fourth year will be a lot easier. The ANU Semester planner (found online) is a godsend. So is Google Calendar. You can also book appointments with the Academic Skills team who will help you elevate your assessments.

Stay in the Know

Join ANU Schmidtposting on Facebook, like the ANUSA page (and Woroni page too x), and regularly browse the Canberra events section. I will also plug ANU Crushes here. Keep an eye on your student emails too.

Smile and Say Hello

Sometimes you just gotta go up to that cutie in Marie Reay and complement their band tee. Or ask the person you always sit next to in tutes if they want to get a coffee. I was at a party and saw a girl I had always seen at the gym, went up to her and said hello, and now we are good friends. Hi Jemma. It’s hard and scary, occasionally you will get rejected. But if you can’t do it at uni, when can you? 

Accept that things will change

University is a time for self-discovery, growth and so many new experiences. Along with that comes change. You may realise the degree you had chosen no longer aligns with where you want to go or that you’ve outgrown your boyfriend/girlfriend/partner from high school. That’s okay. All you can do is be honest with yourself and take each day one at a time. Be open to trying new things, and to admitting that sometimes things are hard.  It just takes a moment of vulnerability, and the person next to you is probably going through the same thing. Coming to ANU means you can immerse yourself in the fantastic community. There is space for you here. You’ve got this.  


Originally published in Woroni Vol.72 Issue 1 ‘Evolution’

We acknowledge the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people, who are the Traditional Custodians of the land on which Woroni, Woroni Radio and Woroni TV are created, edited, published, printed and distributed. We pay our respects to Elders past and present. We acknowledge that the name Woroni was taken from the Wadi Wadi Nation without permission, and we are striving to do better for future reconciliation.