A “fresher” or freshman is a first year university student.

Being a fresher or freshman, is an exciting period in your life. It’s a time filled with new experiences, whether it’s moving out, making friends, studying hard or experiencing Cape Town in your free time - you’ll be primed with enthusiasm to get started!

first year university students on campus in cape town

If you are just starting university or college and are wondering how you are going to survive and thrive as a first year or ‘fresher’, read on for our tips.

1. Develop a balanced lifestyle

This may sound a bit broad initially, and slightly cliche, but it really is the key to achieving a vast amount at university. It ensures you achieve academically while still enjoying your down time and giving you time to take pleasure in things you want to do outside of your studies.

Part of developing this balanced lifestyle is based around basics such as eating healthily and sleeping regularly, but there are also other tactics that you incorporate in order to feel ready to take on every busy day at university.

Make sure to eat healthily

For tips about creating a balanced diet, we would recommend our recent article How To Eat Healthily During University. However, for some basics: buy in bulk, plan 3 to 4 meals a week in advance with all the relevant ingredients, use containers to keep ingredients from going off and to keep your leftovers fresh.

student eating berries and yoghurt

Ensure you are getting enough sleep

Sleeping is one of the most overlooked aspects of university life that has a definitive impact on your day-to-day productivity, general energy and mood.

Young adults need around 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night for a number of important reasons.

student going to bed early and getting a good night of sleep resting

When asleep, your brain signals your body to produce hormones and undergo activities that improve your daily life and help improve your energy levels, memory, immune system, manage your appetite and also decreases your risk of falling victim to adverse health conditions.

Drink plenty of water

It’s no secret that drinking plenty of water every day is beneficial to your help, after all our body is comprised of 60% water.

Drinking water regularly is good for the cartilage in your joints, helps deliver oxygen throughout your body, is necessary for a good digestive system and helps you maintain the correct body temperature & blood pressure.

It also helps while you’re studying during the hot Cape Town Summers, and improves factors such as focus and energy, where being dehydrated can vastly affect your physical and mental performance.

Exercise regularly

Exercise is one of the most important things to try and keep up while you study at university.

Regular exercise helps you maintain concentration, boosts your mood, improves brain development and of course improves your physical health.

students participating in a yoga class

Having better physical health will also improve your ability to combat any illnesses whirling around campus during semesters throughout the year.

Exercise to improve mental health

It’s no secret that exercise can improve your mental health, releasing endorphins, your feel-good hormone as you work out and complete your exercise regime. This is a great stress buster and contrary to what you may think, the more stressed and busy you are, the more important exercise is for your overall well being.

student receiving counselling session from university psychologist

Consistent exercise has also been known to help reduce inflammation and improve neural growth. It also helps having an activity to focus on for an hour or two, to take you out of any clouded headspace you may be in at the moment.

Avoid freshers spread by exercising

Sometimes, with all the stress of university, first years can gain weight and depend on unhealthy food to get them through a busy schedule and their adjustment to a new university life.

Completing regular exercise will greatly reduce the chance that you will gain weight during your first few semesters, as long as you blend it with a healthy meal plan on a weekly basis.

2. Socialise with other students in Cape Town

As a first year, you’ll probably want to make new friends and make your university journey more comfortable day by day, by surrounding yourself with like-minded, friendly people that motivate you on a daily basis.

students socialising and drinking together

There are plenty of ways to meet new friends and get acquainted with other university students partaking in a variety of degrees. This is usually a great ice breaker too, and can help you find out more about other university modules/courses you might want to pursue in the future.

Join a club or society

There are plenty of societies available for you to join depending where you plan to study in Cape Town.

Private universities generally don’t have too many societies to choose from, but associations like student leadership bodies and other academic societies are sometimes common.

At public universities, there are tons of societies to choose from. The University of Cape Town includes societies that form part of culture, politics, faith, academic and special interest societies.

ted x uct cape town university society

Special interest societies represent a broad range of interests from special interest and civil society groups to social and wellness groups, and some examples include TEDxUCT and Women in Computer Science.

Societies provide you with an opportunity to find a student niche that fits your personality, hobbies or interests and meet like-minded Cape Town university students.

Get a part time job

Taking on a part time job is a great way to make some extra spending money, for your weekly and weekend entertainment and spending time exploring Cape Town with friends.

They also provide you with the opportunity to meet new people, and potentially make some friends among your new colleagues, as well as those you meet during shifts too.

student waitress holding a coffee mug

Some popular ideas are waitering and working behind the bar at restaurants. Alternatively you could consider au pairing in your free time, becoming a sales associate at a local retail outlet. Because you’re a young vibrant student at heart – you might even be tasked with running the social media for whichever company you work for, if they don’t already have someone managing this aspect of their business.

Take part in a sport

If you’re into your sport, there are plenty of facilities around Cape Town that can provide you with extra mural sporting activities to get enthusiastic about in your spare time.

Your university campus will sometimes have the facilities for you to play sports like squash, basketball, netball, tennis, football and rugby, but you could also choose to partake in sport outside of on-campus activities.

group of students celebrating during a netball match

Cape Town has plenty to offer from sailing with clubs, to fishing with friends, rock climbing and is even home to 9 Fives Futbol arenas throughout the city, all the way to Stellenbosch.

3. Be a diligent student

It may seem like a drag, but going to lectures is undoubtedly one of the easiest ways to stay on top of your workload and make sure you stay informed with all the latest changes to due dates and details about your assignments.

It’s also a minor social opportunity, as you can gel with your classmates in intervals and take part in open discussions which can lead to finding like-minded individuals to be around.

Go to lectures

Using your coursework as a marker for all that you need to learn at university is a slender approach to your studies, as lecturers will provide a lot more information than what is available in your coursework notes.

attend lectures at university

Similarly, lecturers can make harder ideas and concepts easier to unpack, especially if you don’t understand them well enough and need to ask specific questions for assistance.

It’s also an opportunity to get to know your classmates and make new friends, which can be especially useful if you’re new to Cape Town. Sometimes, it’s not even about meeting your classmates, but being on campus allows you the opportunity to meet plenty of other students studying a variety of courses at your university. You’ll run into them during lunch, after class or while attending orientation activities and events.

Get your university work organised

Getting organised may seem like a headache – but it really doesn’t have to be. In fact, it’s far more likely to clear your head and provide you with more free time to pursue your interests, study or socialise with friends. You can use our article for lifestyle tips and hacks to help you on a day-to-day basis.

Some of the best ideas for keeping organised at university, align with keeping up to date with your courses, having a neat way of keeping track of your study notes and coursework material, and incorporating daily routines in order to maintain productivity and plenty of energy. Getting group work organising in a timely fashion also helps a lot!

group of students working together for university group project

A healthy eating pattern, sleeping scheduled and managed hardcopy or digital filing system are great additions you can make to your lifestyle in order to improve your daily performance/focus at university and mood.

Find out who your student advisors are – and who manages your block in residence

Meeting student advisors and authority figures in your residence (or at university) that can provide you advice and tips is a great way to form connections and provide you with the right outlets for any issues you need to tackle, or to clear up any confusion.

student advisor at university

For example, at some point during your studies, maybe towards the latter end of your first year, you might be contemplating whether that you want to switch one of your subjects for another module, and a student advisor or a similar figure may come in handy to help you.

Ask for help when you need it

Once you’ve learned who all the important people are to keep in mind whether you have a concern, confusion or an issue that needs to be taken care of, don’t be afraid to ask your mentors at university for help.

They are the best people to speak to when you’re in a crisis and on campus. Although it may be worth speaking to your parents about some issues, having on-campus support that isn’t a few hours drive or a plane ride away, can really help.

4. Manage your budget and finances

Creating the perfect student budget is the best way to manage your daily spending and saving, and ensure that you have enough money to finish the month without the financial struggle of having to ask for extra allowance, or going hungry for a few days.

student creating budget for university tuition and accommodation

We have an article to help you find out what you can expect to pay as a student living in Cape Town and craft the ideal daily budget to cover your necessities and entertainment. We also provide some real life examples to give you real-life pricing for tasks like buying weekly groceries and crafting a student budget to a tee.

Student discounts

As much as university is an exciting time in your life, it can be expensive and make it hard to stick to a strict budget. As a student, you have access to certain discounts that can be redeemed for a variety of products.

students enjoying 2 for 1 burger meals at restaurant

When you register for your course at university, you will be provided with a student card which will allow you to access certain discounts for services like haircuts, meals, stores like topshop and the iStore and even for entertainment at the Labia, Baxter and Two Oceans Aquarium. Have a look at this list of businesses that offer student discounts to help you save along your university journey.

Banks also offer specific discounts for students, which can be accessed by opening a student account for a very low cost, or for free in some cases.

student applying for student bank account in south africa

We cover this in The Best Student Banks Accounts for Loans and Bursaries in South Africa, which can also help you if you’re looking for ways to save when paying for your tertiary education or university accommodation in Cape Town.

You can also learn about The National Student Financial Aid Scheme and how they can help you secure funding and which universities support NSFAS grants.

Apps like TheEntertainer and VarsityVibe also allow you access to a variety of discounts and deals on meals, drinks and even gym memberships and classes in Cape Town. Check them out for 2-for-1 burgers and beers over the weekend with friends, or even a midweek boxing class.

5. Pick the right kind of university accommodation in Cape Town

There are a few accommodation options for students planning to live and attend university in Cape Town. These range from private accommodation, to student accommodation facilities and university residences.

Each has their own perks and pitfalls, depending on what preference for where you plan to stay during university. We cover the differences between Student Digs,  Residence, and Private Accommodation to help you understand which option will suit you during your studies.

Nest Student Accommodation Mowbray Cape Town

NEST offers private student accommodation facilities for university students in Cape Town. With 24/7 security staff, fingerprint access, underground parking, 10GB of WiFi per month as well as modern rooms, a rooftop gym and lounge area fitted with plenty of TVs for students to use to kick back and relax after a long day at university!

Send us an inquiry and arrange to pay us a visit at 46 Durban Road in Mowbray, so you can check out NEST and find the perfect fit for your student accommodation during your university years.

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