8 things to do in your first year at university

The best things to do in your first year at Sydney

The University of Sydney is a vibrant campus – we asked students on campus to share their tips for the best things to do in your first year of university. This is what they said.

young man sitting by the ocean

1. Get out and explore Sydney

A lot of students move to Sydney for the first time when they start their studies, and the city may seem like an intimidating place. But don’t be scared to get out and explore the city. A lot of students who are from Sydney may not have even seen some of the places you want to visit. Plan a day trip to the beaches, parks, botanic gardens and museums the city has to offer.

2. Sign-up for, well, everything

This tip came up again and again and again. Every student we asked told us that getting involved in campus life in their first year was the best thing they did - or the thing they most regret not doing. There is always something interesting happening at the University. Whether it is a music festival, a club or society, free food, petting zoos, markets and student exhibitions or volunteer outreach programs, there is literally something happening almost every day.

Jacob Masina, a Bachelor of Laws/Bachelor of Arts (Hons) student says,

“Embrace the campus culture and university social life. Sydney University is the best university in the country not only for its academic record but also because the student experience is second to none. Join a society. Discover a talent you never knew you had. Explore an interest and develop a community.”

Pamela Kahwajy, a Bachelor of Engineering Honours (Civil)/ Bachelor of Project Management student says,

“In my first year I joined a few societies and attended their events which was a lot of fun as it helped me make friends outside the lecture theatre. Just remember that you don’t have to go to every event – studying is important too."

3. Find out where to get the best coffee on campus

For some students, having a regular place where they got their morning coffee was something they looked forward to every day on campus. Having a regular spot where they could quickly pick up their usual drink, meet friends, or where they could quietly sit while catching up on work was a big deal.

So where can you get the best coffee on campus? There was a bit of debate on this topic. With so many options at the University of Sydney, it can be tough to decide which café is going to become your go-to for that daily caffeine fix. But Bachelor of Design Computing student, Christopher Chan, sold us on Ralph’s Café. He says,

“Ralph's has the best Italian ice coffee in town! Who can resist hazelnut ice cream?”

4. Don’t be afraid to ask questions

When you are in your first lectures and tutorials, you might find yourself nervous to ask questions - but don’t be! Many students are scared in their first year to ask a question or voice their opinion on a subject. Fourth-year Bachelor of Science/Bachelor of Laws student Shaun Jing Kai Ch’ng says,

“Uni is the place for us to make mistakes and learn and grow. Don’t let the fear of embarrassment prevent you from asking questions, because it is very often that someone else has the same question too!”

It sounds cheesy, but it’s true, there really is no such thing as a dumb question.

5. Find a space on campus where you like to hang out

There are plenty of unique locations tucked away on our campuses were students can relax in between classes or catch up with friends during the day. 

“There are so many cool spaces on campus which can get you inspired! I enjoy ThinkSpace (Jane Foss Russell Building), feeling like I’ve traveled to ancient Rome at the Nicholson Museum (Quadrangle), catching up with friends at the Courtyard Café (Holme Building), and checking out the cool architecture of the Nanoscience Hub!” - Tiffany Wong, in her second year of a Bachelor of Arts.

“After exploring a few spaces on campus, my friends and I eventually found a quiet and hidden spot that we went to almost every day. Since the university has such a large campus and so many places to study, with some exploration you can always find somewhere you really like, whether it’s tucked away in the IT building, or outside in the sun at Cadigal green.” - Hamish Ivison, Bachelor of Information Technology/Bachelor of Arts.

Find a space on campus that helps you unwind, gets your creativity flowing or makes you feel at home.

6. Choose subjects that you enjoy

There are A LOT of subjects to choose from at the University. Some students have known for years exactly what they want to study or what career they want to pursue. For other students, choosing a major can seem intimidating. Several students advised to choose the subjects that you enjoy.

Being at university is a journey, not just an end product. For some students, that means working out what you like and what you don’t. Try new subjects that interest you. Play around with your elective courses. A lot of students transfer degrees and change their majors because they try a new subject and discover a new passion.

And if you know exactly what path you want to pursue, think ahead. Second-year Juris Doctor student Elizabeth Toriola advises,

“Even in your first year, it is worth thinking long-term. If you know you’re interested in doing research or pursuing a certain career or studying overseas, plan for it. Planning for potential pathways can open doors down the track. For example, it’s easier to pursue certain careers if you've done internships or substantial extra-curricular activities. Often, the truly impressive additions to your CV are years in the making.”

7. Take time out for the things you love

Whilst it may seem as though obtaining HDs is the only thing that matters in your first year, it is also important to maintain a good work-life balance. It is important you attend class and stay on top of your workload, you should also ensure that you stay involved in your hobbies and spend time with your friends.

Go to the gym. Grab a coffee in the sun. Have Friday night drinks and dinner with friends. Take a nap in the shade. Read a book for fun, not class. It’s amazing what a bit of time out can do for you.

8. Be prepared, but don’t take it all too seriously

It is important in your first year at university to be organised and prepared for your classes and exams. And many of our students told us that being prepared is what got them through their first year. Some students created an assessment timetable for the whole semester in their first week. Others had a sleeping schedule to ensure they were rested before exams. We had students tell us investing in many colours of highlighters saved their studies and some who dedicated their commute to campus for working ahead on their readings.

Be prepared. Find a schedule or method that works for you. But also, don’t take it all too seriously. Bachelor of Arts student Caitlin Gauci says,

“The key is to give it your all, but don't beat yourself up. At the end of the day we are all here to learn and every experience, expected or unexpected, is a learning experience. Enjoy your time at uni. Keep things in perspective and frame your studies as something that enriches your life and friendships. Have fun with it.”

There you have it, the 8 things every first-year university student should do. Get involved. Explore. Be open to new opportunities. Drink coffee. Ask questions. Find your passion. Make new friends. Enjoy your time here.

13 December 2016

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