Starting University is a whirlwind of different emotions and actions that each and every student must go through in getting their academic career started. These include ‘easier said than done’ lifestyle changes from learning to live independently from parents and loved ones, to managing finances and finding part-time jobs. One key aspect I feel that is not discussed all too often is the significance of starting University, or what many of us feel – starting a new life – in a new location.

Aberdeen – The Granite City – is definitely an excellent location to choose to develop your academic skills. Firstly, to help process such a major change in your life, Aberdeen is a city that I describe as “big enough, but not too big”. The grey walled city has enough to offer you in terms of shopping, nightlife and outdoor activities – that you won’t feel the need to travel outside the city. I can safely say that you won’t have an issue finding a local supermarket within a 10-minute walk from your home!

Many of the issues I faced when I first arrived in the city was that I didn’t know where anything was, I didn’t know anyone else here and I certainly didn’t know if I was up for the task of setting up my life in a new location. Four years later, I have made friends that I know I’ll keep in contact with for the rest of my life – I can navigate the city easily by car and on foot and I have learned that home is never further than a phone call away; should I feel a little bit homesick. In this blog I hope I can pass off a few quick insights on how I made Aberdeen my home and give a true insight on what it is like to start beginning in a new city.

One main point of action is to highlight the invaluable help of your local University’s advice team – not only can they advise you on academic matters, but they can also help you seek help either financially, mentally or physically. They can help you locate different societies where you can find people who are interested in the same things you are! Or even help you find a job or a new home.

Another thing I found helpful in adjusting to a new city was to make friends in my immediate accommodation. Whether in first year halls, or at private on-campus accommodation such as with Hunter’s Student Accommodation, you will be able to find a group of people to help you figure out the city together – as it is important to remember you are not the only person who is facing a new city for the first time. Making immediate friends in your accommodation allows you to slowly move away from a city of strangers – but a place where you will start to recognise faces whether at a nightclub – or during a shopping trip. Aberdeen, as I’ve come to know it, will slowly fill with people and memories. The city will eventually feel like home, it really will. Moreover, you’ll begin to make friends in your classes too – from my own experience, it really can be as simple as sitting next to someone at a lecture and before you know it you’ll be chatting away!

Learning the layout of your University campus is one issue that you don’t have to worry about too much! Every year people try and learn the buildings and routes as quickly as possible before term starts, but the truth is you’ll only ever go in certain buildings that are allocated to your school. The main things to learn are finding the University office, the student union, and the library (as it is where you’re most likely to meet up with your friends or classmates!).

Adjusting to the city means getting to know the city. If you live near the University of Aberdeen campus, the city center is no more than a 25-minute walk away. In my experience, it is best to pick a nice day to walk into town, and walk round the main shopping centers to pick up an idea of where stores are that you are most likely to visit! The main shopping street is Union Street, from which there are many restaurants, chain pubs and quick access to transport. There are multiple buses that take you directly in, or next to both Universities in Aberdeen, however I’ve personally always found it quicker to walk rather than wait on the bus. Finding a few local spots to enjoy is – in my view – key to adjusting to a new city. I personally love the beachfront, going to the local cinemas, and going on nature trails on the outskirts of the city.

All in all, adjusting to a new city is not an easy process for everyone. That being said, having the comforting knowledge that those who are surrounding you in your accommodation and in your classes are going through the exact same experience as you help nudge you on another step. No matter how you feel, if you start the process of making yourself known to others, getting ahead of your studies and exploring the city – you truly will come to see that the city is a great place to live. There’s more to discover and experience than there is to fear – so let yourself experience and enjoy life as a student, because before you know it? You’ll be waving goodbye to your friends.

Sean Owens.