By Tea Višnjić
Starting university is a daunting experience and it is easy to get overwhelmed by the sea of faces and information thrown at you during your first six weeks. But fear not, I’ve picked up some handy advice on how to best cope with starting LSE and come out on top by half-term. Why am I qualified to dish out this advice? I cried every day of Freshers Week because I was so overwhelmed, so you can say I picked up a few nuggets of wisdom along the way. Not to worry, I still had an incredible start to my time at LSE and so will you. These tips just might save you the tears while you’re trying to settle in.
Sort out all the documentation
I know, I know, bureaucracy is the worst. Unfortunately, moving to a new city requires some paperwork, especially if you are entering the UK on a student visa. Make sure you get all your ducks in order as soon as possible so you don’t have to deal with last-minute headaches down the line.
Set up a bank account and a local phone number as soon as possible. You can make most of the appointments and SIM card orders online so you are ready to go when you get to London. Register with a GP as soon as possible – halls usually provide you with the information on how to do it and it only takes a couple of minutes. It might also be wise to get a national insurance number even if you have no work planned for the near future, just in case you want to get a part-time job or an internship later. It’s not that fun but must be done nevertheless, so might as well get it out of the way.
Explore your neighbourhood and the campus
Put on your best ‘Dora the Explorer’ impression and set off on an adventure exploring your new home. Familiarise yourself with the walk/ride to campus and all the campus buildings. Figure out where the nearest supermarkets are and where you can get a good cup of coffee (we have a blog on that!). I would also recommend finding out what the nearest Wetherspoons to you is and which restaurants offer the best student deals to save a couple of pounds.
Familiarising yourself with London and LSE will make the city feel like home in no time! Plus, you will need to rely on Google Maps a lot less, allowing you to fully take in the beauty of London and the LSE campus.
Reach out to people
You know that person who you met in the registration line and seemed fun? Ask them to grab a cup of coffee or go explore London together! Everybody is looking to make new friends in the first couple of weeks and although it may seem slightly random to slide into someone’s DMs, it is worth it. Chances are they will be relieved you reached out first. You never know who your new close friend could be so it’s worth giving it a shot.
We went to Regent’s Park in the first week of uni and are now living together!
Accept it is okay to be a little behind on work
LSE reading lists are very long and daunting at first, especially if you are also learning in a different language for the first time. It just might be that you will be behind on your work some weeks. It is important to be okay with this early on, it will get easier and you will get faster.
Do not compare yourself with peers who are breezing through every reading. If you need extra time to adjust and learn what methods work best for you, allow yourself to get there without feeling pressured. Staying on top of your academics is important, but missing a reading or two every couple of weeks will not make or break your grade.
Join an activity-based society
The student focus tends to fall on academic and career societies, which, though fantastic for some things, generally do not have much of a community. Therefore, activity-based societies are fantastic for continuing a hobby or even picking up a new one whilst making more friends outside halls and your degree.
In second year, I joined the Drama Society which boasts one of the friendliest communities at LSE. The LSE Model United Nations team, equally so, meets every week and goes to the pub after every training. These are the societies where I found my family, but there are so many more to explore!
Even though the social landscape will look different this year, societies are planning for it and are committed to providing you with the best content they can given the circumstances. Make sure you don’t skip out on the Virtual Welcome Fair; it is a great opportunity to meet a lot of societies and find the ones you would like to join.
Take care of your mental health
As mentioned in the introduction, I cried A LOT in the first couple of weeks. Not because I was miserable, I was honestly having a great time, but because I did not stop to take time for myself.
By the time the first reading week rolled around I hadn’t come up for air for six weeks straight! If I wasn’t in class or doing my readings, I was meeting new people and attending society events. Amidst all the hustle and bustle, I simply forgot about my own mental health.
My advice would be to develop a daily self-care routine. It can be something as simple as waking up 20 minutes earlier every morning to enjoy a cup of tea or as elaborate as a 14-step Korean skincare routine. Whatever helps you unwind and reflect on the day behind and the day ahead of you.
With these tips, I am sure you will feel at home in London and at LSE in no time! Should you require any extra help, I wrote an overview of wellbeing and counselling services available at LSE that you can consult for further help.