How To Survive Your First Year of University


Don’t ask me how I accidentally ordered a burrito in the middle of a lecture… and yes, I left the lecture to eat the burrito. Welcome to uni life. 


High-school leavers… you’re on that break between finishing the biggest education chapter of your life so far, to start a new daunting and scary one that may or may not determine your future. Or perhaps you’ve had a few years away from the books and you’re wondering what to expect from the whole university experience?

Regardless of what walk of life you’re coming from, I remember wishing that a “First Years Guide to University” existed before I decided to take the plunge… so I decided to make one myself!

I’ve tried to cater for different people by asking friends from different universities to take part and write about their own personal experiences. Whether you’re studying for the first time in a long time or just want to know what to expect, this guide is for you!


My Top 5 Tips and Advice



Julia Langton (That’s me!)

Bachelor of Public Relations and Communication (Journalism)

Griffith University, Gold Coast

Click HERE for my Instagram

1) Try and go to all of your lectures



Sooner or later, it seems that everyone gets into that bad habit of, “I’ll just watch it online, I can’t be bothered going”. Even though it’s rather hypocritical of me, one of my biggest pieces of advice would be to attend as many lectures as physically possible. Watching a lecture online is nowhere near as engaging as actually sitting in and listening, and sometimes the lecture capture doesn’t work properly. No matter how lazy you’re feeling, just remind yourself that you may as well not waste a minimum of $6k a trimester in uni fees by just going.

2) Figure out how you learn best!



I’ve had a lot of soon-to-be uni student friends ask me the age-old question… “Laptop or book?”. My answer is… why not both? Figuring out how you best learn and absorb information is the key to your best academic performance. I personally learn better by physically writing things down and revising my own notes in a book. Sometimes I find it’s hard to keep up with the lecturer and lecture slides, so I bring my laptop and download the lecture slides so I can jot anything down that I’ve missed. Learning your own learning habits will be a bit of trial and error in the first few weeks, but all worthwhile in the end!


3) Take advantage of the university student discounts!



One of the many perks of being a uni student is all of the discounts you’re entitled to! It’s definitely worth signing up with Unidays to get some very handy discounts on big brands. Make sure to keep your student ID handy to grab discounts on things like movie tickets and other leisurely activities too.

In terms of public transport, I highly recommend calling Translink to update your go card. Once you’re in uni, you must carry an adult go card… but you are entitled to cheaper fares since you are a student**. Call Translink and provide them with your uni and go card information to be granted the new priced fares.

**ALWAYS carry your student ID whilst on public transport. Ticket checkers will scan your go card and ask to see your student ID to confirm your right to these fares.

4) Uni Etiquette vs. High School Etiquette



High School and University are, naturally, two different ball games. Those coming from High School may especially struggle with this at first because I certainly did.


“You don’t need to ask permission to go to the bathroom or to leave the room”

If you want to leave your lecture or tutorial early, you can literally just pack up your stuff and go. I know, it’s wild.


“You can call your lecturers and tutors by their first name”

I was pretty cheeky in High School and already called most of my teachers by their first name, so this wasn’t particularly a big thing for me, but I can imagine that it would be strange for others.


 “If you’re having an off day, you are not obliged to go to university”

This is arguably my favourite part of going to uni. Some days I struggle heavily with mental health issues and cannot physically get myself out of bed, no matter how badly I want to go to class. The leeway and support that uni offers students definitely tops high school in my books.



5) Bring your own lunch/snacks to Uni


I found myself falling into a deep hole of “I’ll just buy food at uni” or “I feel like a coffee/tea” during my first year of uni. So much money was wasted on not meal planning ahead of time and that’s something I really regret. I highly suggest making your own meals at home, perhaps on a Sunday night, and meal prepping for your week (this includes snacks and drinks too!). I don’t care what your mind is telling you, the chances are that you don’t really need that third coffee from your favourite cafe on campus. Make your own coffee in the morning and bring it in a thermos cup to save a bit of extra cash. $3.50 each day really does add up at the end of the week! Everything in moderation.

Questions From Soon-To-Be First Year’s


“Where I can find cheaper textbooks?”

Taya Suggests…

BeFunky Collage

Taya Oxenham

Bachelor of Public Relations and Communications (Marketing)

Griffith University, Gold Coast Campus

Click HERE for Taya’s Instagram


Do yourself a favour and only buy textbooks brand new if you absolutely have to. Those things cost an absolute fortune, so you’re better off buying them second-hand at your uni’s Textbook Fair, searching gumtree, joining textbook-exchange Facebook pages or getting in contact with people you know in the year above. Also, as a general rule, unless the online course profile specifically states that you need the book for the first week, you should probably wait until after that introductory lecture to purchase… I’ve had lecturers request a different textbook from the one they had listed online.

– Taya Oxenham, a third-year student at Griffith University Gold Coast (scroll down for her profile).

“How do I fight the anxiety of starting over? In the sense of being comfortable in the routine of high school life and meeting new people”

Rebecca Suggests…

Rebecca Circle.png

Rebecca Turner

Bachelor of Communication (Journalism and Public Relations)

Griffith University, Gold Coast Campus

Click HERE for Rebecca’s Twitter


If you’re anything like me, you’ll walk into uni wanting a fresh start and hope all your worries from high school or doing full-time work will be washed away because you are studying something you care about. Anxiety is a part of life, you need it to survive, but at University in a high-pressure situation, it’s going to pop up more often than you think. I spent many nights having breakdowns in front of a computer because I put so much pressure on myself to succeed and reach this high level of expectation to be the best. Sound like you? Well, I have some tips.

  • Keep your lecturers and tutors in the loop. If they know what is going on (eg. Panic Attack/Kids/work/bereavement). I know it’s hard to be vulnerable but they will love that despite your circumstance you still want to make university a priority. They will do everything can to make sure you are able to pass. I was able to receive a few extensions by letting them know my situation. An extra 24 hours to write an essay is a godsend.
  • Make use of the disability services. I cannot tell you how many times this came in handy, as an anxiety sufferer. I was able to have extra times on tests, sometimes take them in different rooms, I got to submit written essays rather than oral presentations to name a few.
  • Remember that you’re not alone. I know, it’s cliche and it’s cheesy but it’s true. Anxiety can make you feel isolated at the best of times but talk to your family and friends. Get them to read over something (fresh eyes are always needed) or tell them about how you’re feeling and I promise you the world won’t feel so dark.
– Rebecca Turner, a graduate of Griffith University Gold Coast

“Do I have to go to uni every day?”

Taya Suggests…

BeFunky Collage


You only have to be at uni for your scheduled class times, and attending most classes isn’t even technically compulsory. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go though, just that you won’t be in trouble if you’re running five minutes late or have to miss one week, pinky promise. Oh, and most importantly, don’t raise your hand to go the bathroom, just quietly get up and go – you’re a real, actual adult now!

– Taya Oxenham, a third-year student at Griffith University Gold Coast (scroll down for her profile).

“How do I make friends at uni?”

Sam Suggests…

sam circle

Samantha Anderson

Bachelor of Arts (Psychology)

University of Queensland, St Lucia Campus

Click HERE to follow Sam on Instagram


Making friends at university can seem like the most daunting task. You can prepare for classes, buy books and pens and new glasses, but how can you prepare to talk to new people? The first thing to remember is that everyone else is just as scared as you are! Almost everyone is going into that first class without a friend, afraid to sit next to a stranger and get to know them. Make use of the icebreaker activities your tutor will no doubt make you do. Go into that first tutorial with two fun facts about yourself ready to go, and sit next to the first person that you see smile back at you. Make yourself seem approachable – no matter how scared you may be – and be open to starting a conversation. The second thing to remember is that everyone is in the same boat as you. Don’t be afraid to be forward and say hello, or to say hello back to someone that approaches you. Wear clothes that portray your interests, talk to that girl wearing merch for a band you love, smile at that guy you share three classes with. You never know who you’ll connect with, so make sure you’re always open to any possibilities.

– Samantha Anderson, a second-year student at the University of Queensland who has been studying two bachelors over the course of four years.



Advice From Current University Students



Jemima Paull

Bachelor of Business (Marketing)/Bachelor of Government and International Relations (Politics and Public Policy)

Griffith University, Gold Coast Campus

Click HERE for Jemima’s Linkedin

“Keep on Top of It!”


I know you thought you’d left ‘you can’t leave assignments until the last minute’ behind in high school, but I’m here to tell you it’s a phrase that is still (in my opinion) over-utilised in uni. I will say though that you can’t expect in uni to be able to get a pass in a lot of subjects without putting in some effort. Since most subjects require you to pass each piece of assessment to pass the course, a little organisation will definitely go a long way. Get on top of it in your first weeks by noting when all your assessment is due. I find that having a wall calendar with all your due dates up on the wall is the best way to go. You can also use a diary, laptop, reminders on your phone or even download an app that will aid in managing your time when university life is taken up a notch. Trust me when I say this period creeps up on you and it’s made so much easier if you’re prepared.




Anchalee King

Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Education (Secondary)

University of Queensland

Click HERE for Anchalee’s Instagram


“The Dreaded Commute to Uni”


If you’re a genius like myself and have chosen a university in another city, I welcome you to the wonderful world of commuting. With a train ride and a couple of buses between university and home, it’s important that you are prepped ready to survive a day at uni. Luckily for you, I’ve accumulated some must-have items that will help you get through the day.

  • Always have a full bottle of water with you. Especially for the ride home, remember to fill up your bottle before you leave uni. Being stuck on a train for a few hours everyday can get tiring and the only thing you want is a damn drink of water.
  • Be your own nurse and have a packet of aspirin or Panadol. You never know when a killer migraine or headache is around the corner. Sometimes water alone won’t get you through the day.
  • A snack. Make sure you have a packet of trail mix or some kind of healthy snack that can live in your bag. This will be your Lord and saviour after a long day of uni, sitting on the train home absolutely starving and remembering you have food in your bag. A gift from you to you.
  • Headphones. They come in handy for the train ride and avoiding conversations while walking around campus.
  • Portable Charger. Need I say more?
  • Emergency cash. It’s a good idea to keep a little bit of cash for emergencies like topping up the GoCard or buying food if you forget to pack lunch, or even treating yourself at the lolly shop.
  • ALWAYS bring a long sleeve shirt/jumper, even in Summer! Lecture theatres, for some reason, are freezing. One day I left the house with no jumper because it was a lovely hot day…well not for long. It started raining at uni and being wet while sitting in one of those lecture theatres where the temperature is equivalent of the North Pole is not a favourite memory.

Failing to plan is planning for failure. So make sure to pack your bag with all the goodies, and your daily commute will be bittersweet.



Lana Hartwig

PhD Candidate

Griffith University, Gold Coast Campus

Click HERE for Lana’s Linkedin


“Life at Griffith University, Gold Coast”


Make sure to bring a cardigan to uni! The library and classrooms can get very cold. Also, if you are attending Griffith University Gold Coast Campus, make sure to check out Market Day. It’s usually every few Wednesday’s and they have the best food ever! I’ve heard that parking rules and limits in some streets around Griffith Gold Coast Campus, Queen Street Tram Station and surrounding areas are changing, so make sure you know where to park before heading to uni.


image-2018-01-21 (1).png

Aleisha Hynes

Bachelor of Public Relations and Communication (Marketing)

Griffith University, Gold Coast Campus

Click HERE for Aleisha’s Linkedin


“Welcome To The Party!”


The first thing I want you to know – uni isn’t just about academics. There’s a whole social side filled with clubs, events and yes, epic parties. But how do you go from orientation to being a regular at the uni bar raffles? Let’s start with O-week. Arguably the most important (and crazy, exciting) week of your uni life. During O-week you’ll be bombarded with the ‘ultimate uni lifestyle.’ Club sign-on’s, campus tours, corporate stalls – you name it, they have it. A complete showcase of everything the campus has to offer, it gives you the best feel of what you want the next few years to be. So when you’re going into orientation, come early or stay late, grab an O-week bag and check everything out.  And if you’re nervous about going just remember, it’s all for you! This whole week is created to help you find your feet.

But O-week is just the beginning, throughout the year there are endless opportunities to let your social side shine. Just remember to take advantage of every social opportunity. If I didn’t agree to let some strange kid with a camera take a photo of me for “People of Griffith” in my first ever week, I have no idea of the person I’d be today. You never know who you could meet and how it could change your life… so be open!



Zuzana Harmaniakova

Bachelor of Laws/Bachelor of International Relations (Diplomacy and International Relations)

Bond University, Gold Coast

Click HERE for Zuzana’s Linkedin


“University: It’s More Than Academics”


Going through high school, I remember the constant pressure and stress that was placed on us students, particularly in the senior years. We were made to feel as if every piece of assessment we had would somehow determine the course of our future lives and found ourselves constantly comparing and competing with others in hopes of bettering our own future prospects. And it is exactly with this sort of mindset that I started off my university degree. But what I soon began to realise is that university is so much more than just classes and assessment- obviously, this is still a big part of it but it is not the sole emphasis. Regardless of the university you go to, there are a variety of events, social gatherings, clubs or societies to get involved with throughout the year. University is not merely a place you go to study and learn but it is a lifestyle where the atmosphere is so much more relaxed and flexible. And while it may still have that competitive edge, the only person who really cares and who you are actually being compared to is yourself. So, don’t get too bogged down with assessment and studying; balance out your degree, find something you love or try something new- it doesn’t matter what it is but set some time aside to enjoy what university has to offer!



Taya Oxenham

Bachelor of Public Relations and Communications (Marketing)

Griffith University, Gold Coast Campus

Click HERE for Taya’s Instagram


“Okay, But How Does One ‘Uni’?”


I know I’m not saying anything new when I tell you that one of the biggest differences between high school and university is your independence, but independence doesn’t just mean freedom – it means fending for yourself, too, including figuring out how to prep for your courses. I’ve taken my fair share of courses by now though, so here are a few hot tips:

People will ask you “What course are you studying”. They are wrong. Your degree/program is what you are studying. Your courses are your ‘subjects’. Don’t let this confuse you.

When it comes to understanding uni structuring, lectures are a big room where a big lot of people are being talked at – it’s the typical college movie scene where information is hurled at students as they frantically type notes – whereas tutes and workshops are similar to a traditional classroom environment, with 20ish people and tutor-led discussions. You’ll definitely need a laptop for all types, probably your textbook and, if the lecturer/tutor requests it, good old pen and paper too. I like to bring a planner with me as well so I can jot down any important dates, including meeting plans for dreaded group assignments.



Claire Nichols

Bachelor of Biomedical Science (Infection and Immunity + Cell and Molecular Biotechnology)

Queensland University of Technology, Garden’s Point Campus

Click HERE for Claire’s Instagram


“QUT Tips in a Nutshell”


  1. Places to nap: the 24-hour labs which any QUT student with an ID card can enter. V-block has a 24-hour space under the library, and F-block has 24-hour labs too. Also, THE BOTANIC GARDENS.
  2. The Uni Corner Store does a happy hour (2pm – 3pm) where candy is 30% off!
  3. Enjoy the campus! Garden’s Point is beautiful and the gardens themselves are also a nice place to nap or chill out between classes.
  4. BEWARE THE IBISES AROUND P-BLOCK! Never let down your guard
  5. Join a Facebook group like QUT Stalkerspace or Textbook Buy & Sell. It’ll help keep you updated with the stuff going on, can be useful for making friends and finding people who do the same degree as you, and of course find textbooks for way cheaper!
  6. Never be afraid to contact your teachers. They LOVE helping you learn the content, they are there FOR you to reach out to. The staff at QUT are (in my experience) passionate about their subjects and compassionate about their students.
  7. QUT has an awesome equity and disability services department. If anxiety, depression, or anything else ever comes up, there is support. The counsellors even do walk-in sessions!
  8. Never feel silly to ask something, or to tell someone you feel a bit lost. There is such a great support system, all the faculty staff care about getting you through your degree. There are so many societies and clubs (over 110) as well as online opportunities to reach out to people and make friends.



Kelsey Mitchell

Bachelor of International Tourism and Hotel Management

Griffith University, Gold Coast Campus

Click HERE for Kelsey’s Linkedin


“If you don’t enjoy your degree, don’t stay in it”


Take it from someone who has been at university for one year. The degree you start with, may not be the one you have written on your degree certificate at your graduation ceremony in 3 years’ time. I have changed my degree three times (Bachelor of International Tourism and Hotel Management and a Bachelor of Business (double), Bachelor of Arts, and now currently Bachelor of International Tourism). What I found is that I took all of the difficult core courses in one semester, putting a lot of pressure on myself, and evidently, feeling less and less motivated as the semester dragged on, thus transferring degrees, because I thought it ‘would be easier’ (NOPE). My biggest piece of advice that I can give is, if you feel like the degree you’re studying isn’t for you, take a step back, and think about your career aspirations, ones that you have probably been thinking about since year 10 when teachers tell you to start thinking about university and life after high school – and question whether it’s all worth it – which I can guarantee, that after thinking about it, it’s definitely worth it. I had a mindset that I was going to work through the first year and drop out and work fulltime, but I can tell you now, that it is a lot harder to get a fulltime job with no education or experience behind you. Also, surround yourself with an amazing, supportive group of friends who will do absolutely anything to keep you at university and keep your career aspirations alive. Stick it out for 3, 4 or however long your degree is, and I can promise that the tears (and lots of money) will be worth it!



Elyza Gomez

Bachelor of Interactive Media and Design (Digital Media and Advertising)

Bond University, Gold Coast

Click HERE for Elyza’s Linkedin


“A Somewhat Brief Guide to Living Out of While Studying”


The transition from high school and into tertiary education is a challenge on all its own. New campus. New people. New structure. At times, during your first year, you may or may not find yourself overwhelmed with the stress of it all. However, if you are like me, and made the momentous decision to continue your studies away from home, then congratulations – you just signed yourself up for a challenge on a whole new level.

Unlike your peers, you won’t just be worrying about your passing your classes, what events to go to, what internships to put your name forward for. Instead, you’ll be worrying about all that and then some – rent, bills, food, your time. Will you have enough time to earn enough money for all of that? Will you have enough time to do that and then chores? Will you have enough time to complete that assignment that’s due next week? For students like me, time is everything. And unfortunately, that means time cannot be wasted.

So for those who have chosen to move out of home for the very first time while they’re studying at uni, here are some brief but useful tips for managing your time and yourself:

  • Stay organised. Write a to-do list every night with small goals and tasks that you want to achieve or complete. It’s a low budget tool that will motivate you and keep you productive. Also keep a separate calendar with appointments and deadlines, preferably not on your phone. The more you see it, the more useful this will become.
  • Prioritise. Make sure you prioritise yourself. Remember, despite moving out of your home, your priority should be your education – its most likely the reason you came, or your parents allowed you to go. But, you also need money, so work is definitely near the top.
  • Budget. This tip is not as easy as some would think. It’s quite difficult. But the first step is to know what you’re paying for and cut down wherever possible. This will make sure you know where all your money is going and if it’s going. From there, just divide your monthly expenses by how often you get paid. Try not be super strict with yourself and put some money aside for you to eat out or see a movie. If you don’t spend that money one week, you can spoil yourself the next.
  • Meal Plan and Prep. I found that the best way to save money regarding food was to go to the grocery store with a purpose. Plan your weekly meals. If you’re only feeding yourself, pick 2 or 3 dishes for the week, divide them into servings and alternate between them. For breakfast and lunch, steer yourself towards fresh foods and things such as yoghurt, muesli and toast. Not only can you make some pretty tasty things on a low budget, but it will save you tonnes of time during the week.
  • Be Transparent with EVERYONE. There will always be a temptation to cancel a shift so you can go out with friends, or to take on a large part of a project just because you know you can do it better than the other members of your group. But, it’s important to remember that living on your own makes you different from everyone else. You’ll have responsibilities, and sometimes circumstances will arise which would be difficult for you to handle on your own. That’s why it’s important to be completely transparent about your situation with others, particularly your university and your employers. You never know when they can help you out of a jam.

Despite all the challenges, the experience of being completely independent so young is one that while uncommon, is craved by many. Be thankful for your opportunities and when, or if you decide to go home, the people who knew you will revel in how you did it. But most of all, don’t forget to enjoy yourself. Make memories with those you meet and never ignore them. Because during this time, these people and those moments, are one of the best things you have.


Andrew Ryan

Bachelor/Masters Of Sports Management (Business)

Bond University, Gold Coast

Click HERE for Andrew’s Instagram


“What to Wear And Bring To Uni”


Going from High school to university can be difficult because you don’t have to wear and uniform and don’t have to bring a backpack full of books.

The first day can be scary because you want to fit in and know what to wear, but really you just need to wear what’s going to be the most comfortable for you, as you don’t want to be stuck in skinny jeans all day during lectures and tutorials. I made that mistake on the first day and I hated it. So wear what is most comfortable with for you, like a pair of sweatpants, shorts, singlet, jumpers etc.

Now onto the backpack situation… Personally, I think you should take a backpack to carry your books and your laptop, or even take a satchel. You don’t want to carry your books everywhere and make your arms sore, also a backpack is good to store your “emergency” drinks.



So… how are you feeling now?


Perhaps all of this information has made you more anxious to start uni, or maybe excited you even more! No matter what emotions are rushing through you, please remember that everyone else is/or has been in the exact same boat as you! This is your time to start fresh, connect with new people and learn about something that genuinely interests you (which is awesome in itself!), so there is no reason to stress. New structures, obstacles and opportunities are bound to pop up every once in a while, so be sure to take these new experiences with both hands and make something fantastic out of them! But until then, I’ll see you in class 😉

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