Freshers' End | James - Falmouth University

By Issy Goode - 17:12

It's back! To kick off my Freshers' End series this year, I've picked someone who has been kind enough to share plenty of his memories and advice from his first year at university. Now I claim to be pretty honest on this here blog, and my first soon to be second year has certainly respected that, and here is the story of James' incredible first year at Falmouth University studying Digital Media. 
Have you enjoyed you first year of university?
This first year has been, to use an old cliché, an emotional rollercoaster. The crazy first term was very alcohol influenced which helped me get the party animal back out after having to be sensible for a long time. However, the second term was quite the opposite of that. A serious dose of reality in terms of financial and emotional struggle crippled the levels of enjoyment that I could have. Luckily, third term balanced itself with a pleasant combination of hard work being met with hard play time. To use another cliché, the first year was a journey of self-discovery: starting off as the insane, immature drunken nightmare that developed me into a much wiser adult by the end.
How would you describe your freshers week?
They claimed that we had two Freshers weeks; in reality this was just four or five events spread over the two weeks instead of crammed into one. I took full advantage of the opportunity, barely surviving the pirate party that I have very little recollection of. The school disco was my personal favourite, due to the incredibly cheesy 90’s and noughties’s pop music and the fact we were dressed like a bunch of deranged school children. Being as shy and socially awkward as I normally am, Freshers was a blessing; making so many friends under the guidance of the beautiful aid of alcohol set me up for an incredible year.

What were you most nervous about during the run up to university?
Having previously attempted a first year at Birmingham City University, the usual worries about meeting new people and how to survive on my own weren't an issue. My main concern was centred on whether or not I’d made the right course decision. Having giving up on what I genuinely thought was my purpose in life in the form of Psychology, I was terrified as to whether an arts-based digital degree was even suitable for me, especially considering student finance would have only covered my next three years; meaning digital media or nothing at all!

And once you got to uni, did you feel it met your expectations?
The thing is; I genuinely turned up to the first four weeks of lectures still drunk from the night before. So, my initial reaction is a haze of a memory. However, looking back on it all now, we initially had three modules to focus on. Two of them I was somewhat unimpressed by, but I instantly fell in love with the computer coding module. Programming my own game, albeit a simple one, instantly grabbed my attention and kept me happy for the rest of the semester.

Did you find it hard to get into the swing of university life?
For me it was a case of getting back into university life, just in a different location. As soon as I got to my new home, the first thing I did was crack open a drink and meet people. Unpacking was an afterthought. Having established early connections with a few people, I found that those initial nerves weren't really an issue, although I was at an advantage considering I’d done it before!

Tell us about your first year accommodation...
Now this one, was a big deal for me! We shared a flat containing seven people. Our bedrooms each had their own en-suite bathroom, so thankfully this year I didn't have to share that with anyone. This meant that nobody got in my way when it came to cleaning my bathroom in the OCD manners that I did. The kitchen however was, in a word, vile. We established such a close bond with the flat next door that we became somewhat of a family. Now with family, you love them, but you don’t love the mess they leave behind. I always had a philosophy on sharing communal areas. I don’t mind my own room being a dumpster, because I'm the only who has to tolerate it. However, I would always keep the communal areas spotless out of sheer respect for the fact that six other people had to use them also. Did this apply to the others? Did it hell. So not only was my OCD waging a war against my own flat mate’s disgusting living habits, I was waging a war on the selfish ingrates from next door that seemed to think they took up some form of deserved residence in a kitchen they weren't even blooming paying for! I learned a lot about respect for others, and how selfish people can be when it comes to the simple tasks of merely cleaning up after themselves. I genuinely believe that people who lived through the black plague had better living conditions than the scum that resided in our kitchen. It got to the point that the hired cleaners actually refused to clean the mess that the selfish, disgusting vile cretins were leaving and no matter how many times I blitzed that damn room, it always ended up looking like a tornado had hit it in a mere few days. I said to the cleaners one morning, “I spoke to a rat earlier, but he said he was leaving because he couldn't stand it anymore.”

What are you expecting from your student house in second year?
Thankfully next year we've ditched the disgusting people! So we can live with my chosen ones in an obsessive compulsive paradise! We’re sharing a 6 person house in the centre of town. With student houses, you can’t expect masses; however our little humble home isn't unbearable. I'm genuinely looking forward to our next year and think we could develop a beautiful little sub-family culture in which we ditch the irritating pains we got the pleasure of sharing the first place with!

How do you feel now you've finished your first year?
In terms of the work, I was a barrel of mixed emotions coming out of it. I found it challenging, but at the same time I don’t feel I pushed myself enough in the first term when I was too busy getting smashed up all the time drinking. Despite this, coming out of the first year with my newly developed attitude, I'm ready to give the second year everything I've got.

And what do you expect from second year? 
I know that the first year is an opportunity to dip your foot in the water, find out what you’re made of but have a ton of fun at the same time, so it didn't really matter how well I did. I just needed to know I was in the right place. Second year means a damn lot more. I want to give my entirety to it and triumph in somewhere that I least expected.

What was your work load like - did you find it challenging? 
Our work load was strangely inconsistent. At some points, we felt like we had nothing to do, only to have it turned around and piled on us all at the same time. In the essay module, we were introduced to the question months in advanced. Being the cocky so and so I thought I was; I didn't bother reading the question until three weeks before the hand in. Believe me; I put everything I had into those few weeks. From studying clinical psychology, I knew the negative effects that stress could have on the immune system and my god the stress tore me to pieces. I was so unwell; I could barely breathe with the illness combined with the asthma and very little sleep. Soldiering on through it every day though we cracked on and got that monster handed in. The result was a 2:1. I know that it’s a decent grade, but something inside of me was disappointed. Essay writing was something I knew I was good at and could do, so I felt like I let myself down. Thankfully, first year is the place to take those knockbacks and learn those important lessons about what you should have done differently! Next time, the research is beginning a few months earlier for that essay!

What else have you achieved this year?
I mentioned earlier on that the second term was an emotionally crippling time. However, I’m incredibly proud of what developed out of it. In the summer before coming to university, I experienced the worst month of my life. I was betrayed by someone I loved, and the after effects left me physically unwell, emotionally devastated and very untrusting. I know that everyone experiences things in different ways, but I already had a low self-esteem as this point, so this shattered every last fragment of confidence I had in me. The first term allowed me to forget about this by going out with my new found friends, enjoying myself with the aid of alcohol and generally forgetting a lot of things, including elements of what happened. 

In contrast the second term supplied a hard lesson about budgeting, which left me unable to do much in the way of getting out and having fun. This meant I was left to my own devices a lot of the time, and my own company was what created the downward spiral back into the depression I had never truly escaped. Without going into detail about what happened, I was left very untrusting of people and very unwilling to take part in social activity without any alcoholic encouragement. I would lock myself away while the memory and lack of comprehension tore me to pieces inside. I lost motivation to get up each day, I would pretend I wasn't home to avoid being around people and would occasionally not bother eating. I eventually decided to go to one of the University’s counsellors. This was probably the best decision I ever made in my life. I felt so embarrassed by what I was going through, but hearing it from a professional made things seem a lot less pathetic than I originally felt. This is probably why I wanted to go into counselling in the first place! If only I could tolerate people and their idiocy then I would be on a completely different journey! 

Before coming to university, I was a very skinny kid, who never seemed to put any weight on no matter how hard I tried. After drinking “more than an average alcoholic does in a week,” (thanks to one of the best friends for that line,) I had developed an extra two stone in weight, in the form of a beautiful beer belly. With absolutely no confidence left, I became incredibly self-conscious about it and decided I wanted to do something about it. I signed up to the campus gym and began going a few times a week. Now, I’m not an expert about the science behind it, but I was told that the positive feelings that are experienced after a good workout are due to the same endorphins produced by the brain that are produced when drinking alcohol or taking certain drugs. It’s somewhat of a high, which makes you feel better, except this one is actually good for you. I began going to the gym six or seven times a week, rowing ten thousand meters and running two or three miles a day to the point I finally shifted all that beer belly weight into something actually useful. This became my new addiction. I inspired six of my friends to join me from the physical improvements I’d gained myself, finally giving me something I was proud about. I developed more confidence, I developed a closer bond with a few people and most importantly I developed enough self-worth to drag myself out of the depression knowing I didn't deserve to feel that way. The four solid months of pain, sweat and hard work are what I'm most proud of, because it gave me a real reason to feel good, and shove back what happened into their faces, knowing I was better than them.

Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?
There are many things I’d of done differently, as there usually are. I wouldn't have fallen over that barricade drunk if I didn't have to or throw up on that poor girl trying to help me find my way home. In reality though, I think we need to make the genuine mistakes, such as the anecdote about the essay, to learn valuable lessons. A mistake is only a mistake if you genuinely wouldn't do it again. You take all the knowledge you acquire from doing things wrong, and it makes you a wiser person for next time. I think that’s the point of the first year, get all of the stupidity out of the way in a test that only matters in one aspect. It’s not how well you pass, it’s if you pass.

Have you discovered any great money saving tips?
If you don’t care about what you drink, drink the cheapest stuff you can find! My personal tip is to live off the bare essentials. I made countless things out of simply using ham, eggs, cheese, milk and bread. You've got to learn to bargain shop too! You can’t be too fussy if you want to save yourself some money.

What do you do to de-stress at university?
When I was able to, I would go to the gym to physically force all of the stress out. Although, when I was really ill I couldn't physically exercise because of how bad I felt. So, as random as this seems, I discovered this zen relaxation music on YouTube! Lie down for half an hour, or as long as you want, chuck your headphones on and disappear into a world of your peaceful elements inside your imagination. You come round feeling strangely relaxed, I still do it now after bad days.

What advice would you give to those starting university at the end of the year?
Take part in every single thing you can! If you see a Freshers event and you think you might not like it; go anyway with some of the friends you've made. Literally, I made that mistake in my first Freshers, so I corrected it this year and I can’t explain how much better it was. More friends. More memories. More fun.

If you'd like to know anything about Falmouth University or James' course, drop me an email at and I can put you in contact with James! I hope you enjoyed reading about James' year, there's plenty more fresher stories on the way, so prepare to hear more about the things you may experience during your first year! 

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  1. I loved last years series of this, can't wait for this years, if this one is anything to go by it's going to be great!


    1. Thank you! Glad you enjoyed it, there's lots more coming from this years one! :) x


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