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How to get the most out of your first week at uni

James Davis

Careers Commentator
There’s a lot to learn throughout the university experience, but that first week is where it all begins. Read on to learn how you can make the most of it.

University is nothing like high school, but that’s ultimately a good thing. It’s the perfect chance to get out of your comfort zone and grow as a person. Unfortunately, many new students do all they can to shelter themselves from the change. Here are some of the things you can do in your first week that’ll set you up the right way for uni.

Properly introduce yourself to professors and classmates

Lectures and tutorials can be much larger than a standard high school class, so it’s possible to go a whole semester without ever properly meeting anyone at all. This can seem surreal coming from high school where you’ve all grown up together, but this is a very real phenomenon.

Think about it this way. You’re in a room full of 35 nervous people just like you, or maybe even 100 if you’re in a lecture. All of them are trying to not look dumb in front of the class, so nobody says anything unless specifically pointed at. If you can work up the courage to break the ice and talk to your neighbour, you can cut right through the tense atmosphere and maybe even make some friends. It’s incredible how friendly people can be with just a friendly word or two in their direction. It’ll make group work pleasant and it’ll make class discussion far more productive because people will be less afraid to share their thoughts. You’ll be helping yourself and everyone around you if you set the stage like this during your first week.

Join clubs and societies early

We’ve talked about this before on The Uni Guide, but the social value of joining clubs can’t be understated. What makes this particularly relevant in the first week is increased opportunity for growth.

Let’s say you join the finance society. If you do it week one, you can start getting to know people immediately and learning how things are done. You can volunteer for events, get to know your fellow club members more and develop real connections. By week seven maybe you can have a little input into their events helping to decide how they’re run. Soon enough you could be joining the executive committee early second year and have plenty of time to experience more.

Compare that to students who try to cram the whole university experience into their final semester because they were too afraid to jump in early. You’ve not only had the advantage of experiencing more, but have gotten more out of it.

Apply for exchange programs right away

This might seem like a bold choice to be wanting to fly away somewhere else in the first week, but consider this. Most study tours and exchange programs have a huge lead time before you actually go on them. If you apply now and get in, you can expect to be leaving the following year across most programs.

If you’re worried about the cost, all Australian students who are citizens get access to OS-HELP, a dedicated student loan for travelling. It’s possible for each student to access up to two of these, so you can travel and study in two different locations before you pay anything. The best part is that because it’s a HELP loan, it incurs no interest at all.

The amount you have access to is dependent on where you go.

  • Students can get $6,665 if they study outside of Asia
  • Students can get $7,998 if they study inside of Asia and
  • An extra $1,065 on top of that if they take Asian language study to prepare beforehand. Don’t even need it as a major or a dedicated degree program

There’s very little reason not to take this opportunity. It’s more money on your HELP debt, but at 0% interest, we’d say getting to travel for up to 12 months makes it value for money. Applying in your first week gives you time to travel during your second year and frees up your most difficult year (third) for pure study.