This is a 3-part student guide. Check out part 1 and part 2! You’ve been accepted to university and you’ve prepared everything to the smallest detail — you found a place to stay, you did your registration, and you even got to know a bit of the city. This leaves only one question left: now what? This is the time to enjoy all that university has to offer. We show you how simple it can be to have an amazing and unique university experience during your stay abroad and how you should be preparing for your university experience.
Make friends with local students
You’ve arrived at your destination and you’re ready to start exploring the city. Is there anything missing? Yes, some local friends! We don’t doubt that you know how to have fun, but making friends that know the place and the university you’re going to can really have an impact on your experience. If you don’t know where to start, we leave you with some suggestions:
Go to university parties
Nobody makes friends while staying at home, right? If you want to meet some local students, these parties are the ones you have to go to. Every university has several events during the academic year that you can attend, and if yours doesn’t organise any parties that you find interesting, most academic parties are open to students from other universities too, so you can join and meet them!
Another way to make local student friends is to find people with the same interests and tastes as you. Have some side activities that allow you to interact with local people and to know them better. These activities may even be organised by your university. For example, academic clubs are a great way to meet local people with the same interests as you, and they may not even be from your degree, which makes things even more interesting!
Use social apps
If none of the above seem like viable options, you can always rely on social apps to meet new people. Although we can’t promise you that all of them will be local, you can always try your luck on apps such as Tinder Social or Humble BFF to find friends to explore the city with!
Try the good old-fashioned “hello”
Chances are, most people sitting in class are in the same situation as you. At university, people come from different cities and countries, and they also want to make friends and feel integrated. A good old-fashioned “hello” is always a good choice for a conversation starter. However, if you don’t feel comfortable doing it, try approaching the person seated next to you by complimenting something they are wearing or making a question about the class.
Plan your budget
If you’re studying away from your home and want to put together a budget, start planning it. To discover that you may be overspending when going out, for example, is not uncommon among students, and you may end up in the classic academic dilemma of eating canned tuna or pasta for a month. Here are a few tips to plan your budget and to make the most of it:
Keep track of your spendings on your phone
There are several mobile apps that allow you to micromanage your expenses and earnings to better spend your money in what you really need. From tracking your transactions to categorising expenses and setting budgets for each category, they can all help with that. Money Manager is a good example.
Pro Tip: One way to see if you’re setting your monthly budgets too high or too low is to check living cost websites (like Numbeo, for example) or the “Living in” guides that universities usually have and where they estimate living expenses.
Get inside knowledge
Sometimes you can do it all if you have the right information. For example, did you know that in Lisbon most museums are free in the first Sunday of every month? Or that you have subsidised meals in Ljubljana’s Faculty of Economics? All these things are usually local common knowledge that you will only find out by talking to other students or checking your university website.
Tip: Have you ever bought a very expensive book only to use it once during your whole semester? To prevent this, sometimes universities have print shops that sell copies of these academic books at a more affordable price. Other good alternatives are to buy them from the student association’s book bank; to check if you can find a PDF version online; or if someone is willing to sell it on a student Facebook group for a cheaper price.
Do extracurricular activities
Going to university is a big mark on your CV, one that’s very important for your future professional life. But nowadays graduating from university isn’t enough for most companies, since they search for competent candidates in every aspect and not just in the academic field.
One thing that companies value enormously on your curriculum are extracurricular activities where you can upgrade your soft skills and learn how to be a more proactive person.
Join school clubs
School clubs are very diverse and change from university to university, but they can always give you a sense of responsibility for the work you’re doing and, more importantly, make you develop your team working skills. These kinds of clubs are very common in universities, and they can be about anything.
Another activity you will surely find in your university are sports. You may think that it’s not a big deal for companies, but actually sports are really great to develop soft skills. You keep schedules and give your best for the sake of the team.
Get an internship
One of the main requisites from companies when they are recruiting is experience. You may think that it’s not really important for you right now because you’re still studying, but there are a lot of opportunities for students to gain experience in their fields through internships, part-time jobs or even one-time jobs. This kind of experience is a great addition to your CV and for you to get to know how the job world works, even before you start.
Join a company’s Ambassador Programme
Another way of getting experience in a company is through their Ambassadors Programmes. As an ambassador, you become a representative of the company in your university and you get the chance to know how a company actually works from the inside.
Some Ambassador Programmes are more complete than others. At Uniplaces, for example, besides becoming a representative of the company, you can develop your soft skills and be an active part of the company by helping students find a home, create content for social media channels, and talk with potential partners. The best part is you can make really good friendships and have new experiences too.
Last, but not least, some good things to do besides school to enrich your CV are workshops about diverse themes and language courses. They’re also a nice experience and they can add enrich your knowledge.
Check out the best places to eat
Now let’s go to the real business — the FOOD! The one thing you probably think about all day, every day. You’ll never stop asking yourself the eternal question of “What will I eat today?”, especially at university. On the other hand, being a student also means having an empty wallet during most of the month, so the real question you will probably ask yourself is, “What can I eat without spending too much money?”.
Here are some tips for you to take a break from cooking at home without spending your entire allowance on one meal:
The first thing you need to do is think about your favourite restaurants, the ones you love but can’t afford to go there often, and then you just need to search online. You might think it’s useless, because nice restaurants never have a sale, but there are some amazing websites like PromoFans or Mygon that can give you great deals. If you have simpler tastes and really love McDonald’s, you should try their app and look out for their many discounts.
If you’re tired of eating at the same places and want to try something different, but before you want to make sure you won’t spend all your allowance there, you should download some useful apps like Zomato or look for some lists for cheap local restaurants on Time Out. There are also some really cool apps that are revolutionising the way we buy food, like Too good to go, that let us order cheap food and meals that would otherwise be thrown in the trash.
Essential tip: Lastly, the most important and basic tip for when you’re looking for cheap restaurants: never look in touristy areas! You’ll find many nice looking restaurants in the most popular spots in the city, and probably most of them are pretty good too, but you will always overpay for your meals. You should try to look for little restaurants in old parts of the city or residential areas and you will have an amazing meal for much a lower price.
Discover where to study
If you’re like us, you probably think you have too many distractions and comfort at home to focus on studying. This is where we come to the rescue! Despite the place you will be studying, there are some requirements that any place should have if you want to get some work done:
- It should be calm and quiet;
- Wall plugs are a must, as well as wifi;
- There must be some vending machines or restaurants nearby (if you don’t bring food from home);
- Coffee should be there somewhere (really, coffee is life);
- It should be open for more than 6 hours a day;
- It should be close to public transport.
Tip: Always bring a triple socket when studying away from home; it’s incredibly handy.
Although it’s somewhat obvious, some places that gather these requirements are university and public libraries and big chains like Starbucks and McDonald’s. Try different places until you find the one that fits your style. Have a great year!
Thanks for reading this post!
Are you prepared for university? Let us know in the comments. And remember: if you need student accommodation, you’ll find the perfect student home on Uniplaces.