GUEST BLOG: 5 things I wish I knew before starting university, by Poppy Houston

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Hi guys! I’m Poppy, a second-year history student here at Brookes and I’ll be doing a couple of guest blogs until the end of the semester as part of my placement module. I thought it might be useful to give you a list of five things I wish I knew before I started university.


When choosing university, looking at the modules that are on offer is possibly the most important thing you could do. Every university is different, so don’t be fooled into thinking that a course at Brookes will be the same as a course elsewhere. Making sure you enjoy your course is key to your academic happiness for the next three years.

Having said that, it’s also important to keep an open mind. All 8 of my first-year modules were compulsory and I was dreading sitting through two hours of ‘the rise of the modern world’. But it ended up being my favourite first year module. Compulsory courses are a great way to make friends, especially in your first year. All your timetables end up looking the same and you bond over those hellish 9am starts and caffeine fueled lecturers.


You don’t have to spend hundreds of pounds on books anymore. With at least one compulsory text per module, if you opt for buying all these books the cost could spiral out of control. With other things to pay for, such as a dangerously expensive tea addiction, I could do without the extra cost. Cue the Brookes Library: six floors of free books, online renewals, and articles you can access from your bed!

Bonus fun!: Many of the books in the library have been underlined by previous students, meaning that that all important key quotation has already been found for you – half blood prince style.

Social Life

After a very hardcore ‘maybe I’ll go out once every other week’ approach to clubbing in first year, I’ve decided to retire. I’m a grandmother living in a 20 year old's body and I wasn’t kidding anyone by um-ing and ar-ing about going out. The truth is that I’m happier in my bed, watching Netflix, and eating ice-cream.

If you ‘#lovethesesh’ then Oxford is a surprisingly great city to go out in. But, if you’re like me, you’ll be just fine too. Don’t feel peer pressured into drinking. If you don’t want to go out, don’t. It’s as simple as that. You won’t be missing out on much, and for a £5-10 club entry + the cost of drinks you could find a lot of other ways to be social with your mates, like…

- A seat to watch Oxford United: £12 (with a student ID)
- Going to the cinema: £5.60-£7.00 (with a student ID at Odeon)
- A chicken katsu-curry at Wagamamas: £10


Here’s my attempt at saving my loose change for a special occasion.

SAVE BEFORE YOU GO! So many people told me this before uni and I wish I’d listened. Having a pot of money you can fall back on after blowing out too much during freshers week will be a life-saver.

Get an accounting book or spreadsheet before you go; plan out your finances, rent and monthly food bills etc, get it all written down. This way it’ll be easier for you to see that you’re spending way too much in the on-campus Starbucks and help you plan accordingly, like bringing your own tea bags and buying a hot water instead! Oh, and get two bank accounts (or at least a savings account added onto your account) - having your rent and social money in separate accounts prevents you accidentally spending away your rent money.

Don’t stress too much. No matter how bad it gets you will be able to get support at university.


There are so many online resources at uni that you can find answers to even the rarest of questions. Even how to work the washer.

Don’t be embarrassed to ask for help! If you don’t ask, you won’t get; whether it’s academic help or student finance issues, there’s always a lecturer, a member of the union staff, or someone else who can help you. The Student Union’s finance team are absolute lifesavers with all student finance queries and helping to avoid phone calls. Let’s be honest, nobody likes making phone calls.


I hope these prove useful to you all. Leave a comment below if there's anything you wish you’d known before you started university. Or, if you haven’t started university yet, is there anything you’d like to know?