Six Freshers tips you won’t hear anywhere else

There are a million and one guides on the internet for Freshers — what to bring to university, what you should do when you’re there, what to cook and how to pick the perfect housemate. But what these guides don’t tell you is the top things to make sure you DON’T do in your three years.

These six real life tips will ensure you don’t piss off your house mates, course mates or even lecturers. No these aren’t the standard “don’t drink your flat mates milk”, these are the real life irritations you will be sure to experience at one point or another.

Make sure you’re not guilty of these six things and your university life will run along smoothly.

Don’t turn up late to the same lecture every week.

I am sure all students have someone who springs to mind with this one. Their smirk and casual demeanor amuses no one and it gets very tiresome watching them make an entire row shuffle along — so they can sit there and take no notes for the full hour. Either come on time or don’t bother at all.


Don’t be a uni clothing keeno.

There’s always something quite peculiar about the people who buy an [insert uni name here] hoodie in the first week and wear it everyday for the next three years. We all know you go to that University, we see you on campus daily. Buying a hoodie as a momento when you graduate is fine, wearing uni merch for your whole three years isn’t. (same goes for wearing school leavers hoodies).

Don’t act like a BNOC (big name on campus).

Being a BNOC can either be a blessing or a curse, making out like you are one when you’re not is most definitely a curse. There is nothing worse than being friends with that guy who makes out like they know absolutely everybody. Whether you’re on campus, in town or on a night out, they’re saying hi and bye to every Tom, Dick and Harry you walk past. But they clearly don’t know these people from Adam.

Same goes for when they’re telling you a story about that guy “Bob”, they act like you should totally know who bob is, and you’re a social introvert for not. There is nothing worse than a wannabe BNOC, so avoid this at all costs.


Don’t be the person who never takes the bin out.

Ah the joys of shared living. This may sound menial and you’ll rarely come across this problem if you live in student halls. But when living in a shared house, if the bin is full take it out — stop trying to break the world record for rubbish Jenga. It stinks, it’s irritating and it takes five minutes to do. The same goes for putting the bin out and buying bin bags — this is hands down one of the most infuriating parts of student living.

Don’t be a smart arse.

Clearly this didn’t go down well in school, what makes you think it will go down well at uni? It’s fine to enjoy your studies, that is what you’re here for, but there’s nothing worse than the person who interprets a 200 person lecture hall to tell the lecturer they’ve got something wrong. Or someone who interrupts them for anything for that matter. Please remember the person at the front has an undergrad degree, a masters and PhD — you currently have none of these things, pipe down.

Don’t use the word “banter” in a serious context.

Or any context for that matter. Ever.




Lad Culture: Why are we STILL debating this?

Slutwalk Trafalgar Square, June 2011 – Flickr/Garry Knight

I am sure you’re sick of reading the words “lad culture”. So am I and so are the other women who have experienced it at university. But despite the numerous articles, campaigns and research carried out into tackling lad culture on UK campuses, it is still rife. Until this culture is eradicated, we must keep talking about it, highlighting it and challenging it and its culprits.

During my Fresher’s week it seemed  anything went; drinking copious amounts of alcohol, making new friends, wearing ridiculous costumes and singing at the top of your voice on a double-decker bus. One of the songs we sang went: “Now she’s dead but not forgotten, dig her up and fuck her rotten.”

At the time, in my drunken haze, I didn’t even contemplate what I was singing. Looking back, this chant is downright disgusting and extremely disturbing. What makes it worse is that we were taught this chant by older, sober representatives who were supposed to be there to look after us. Why did we all think this was normal?

This is not banter.

I know what many of you will be thinking: “it’s just a song it doesn’t matter”, “lighten up it’s just banter”, “stupid girl, get over it”. And maybe you’re right, after all it is just a song. But I don’t really consider necrophilia to be banter. This was the first time I witnessed lad culture at play, and it definitely would not be the last.

To be one of the “lads” you’re expected to drink heavily, sleep around and then discuss your “conquests” with the rest of the “lads” over a cheeky Nandos and a pint. One of the most famous examples of lad culture in action comes from the rugby boys at LSE.

At the LSE’s freshers’ fair, the male rugby team handed out leaflets in which they described women as “trollops”, “mingers” and “slags”. It went on to describe women who play sport as “beast-like women who only play so they can come out with us on Wednesdays”. The leaflet also detailed part of their initiation, which included “pulling a sloppy bird”.

The disgusting laddish behaviour of university sports teams struck again, but this time a bit further North at a Durham University college. Members of the college rugby team played a game called “It’s not rape if…” at their social, where each of the players had to find a way to finish off the sentence. These are just two examples, but I am sure you are all recounting similar instances from your own universities or colleges.

Of course all of this was just “banter”, just part of the culture of university. But within the university environment lad culture is flourishing and becoming more and more dangerous. If we keep defining these offensive, sexist and misogynistic acts as just “banter” and “laddish” antics, we are heading down a slippery slope.

A survey by the NUS in 2014 revealed that 1 in every 4 students at UK universities have been subject to unwanted sexual advances. Hidden Marks reported that 1 in 7 women had experienced serious sexual or physical violence at university, and 68% had been sexually assaulted.

From incidents such as groping and forceful kissing, to games such as “pull the pig” (where the task is to get with the least attractive girl in the club) and “harpooning” (the largest girl), to un-consensual drunken sex and un-consensual sober sex. The dangerous lengths lad culture stretches too are clearly far beyond  boyish behaviour.

Lad culture is clearly synonymous with sexism, sexual harassment and sexual assault on our university campuses.

Calling it what it is.

It’s time we stopped calling this behaviour “lad culture” and start calling it what it is: misogyny. How can sexism and harassment at university be something that we continue to ignore? How can we live in a supposedly equal gender society and still be okay with lad culture? How can so many people come forward to oppose this culture, and campaign for its end, yet its still so rife?

Universities across the UK have been too slow to get involved with this issue, consistently sweeping the problem under the rug until something serious occurs. But by that point it is too late? UK universities need to increase their resources and focus their time more wisely, in order to tackle a problem that affects 37% of the female student population and 12% of males.

Distributing “consent quizzes” at the Freshers fair (instead of the free pens and drinks vouchers) is a good place to start, and holding consent workshops is even better. However, we still have a long way to go before grabbing a girl in a nightclub and these vile chants and games are seen as sexual harassment and not just “laddish behaviour”.

For more articles related to feminism and lad culture, check out Evie’s blog here


A student guide to Newcastle

So, you’ve moved to university in Newcastle and you’re all settled in but what now? In all likelihood, your first year timetable isn’t that full which means you have a fair bit of free time on your hands and staring at your laptop, binge watching a TV series on Netflix, is only fun for so long.

There’s tons of things to do in this famous North East city that are sitting right under your nose, so make the most of your free time now because soon enough deadlines are looming, months pass by and suddenly you’re about to graduate, which means only one thing – entering the world of work.

Here’s a list of 10 things to do in Newcastle in your first year at University:


Even if you’re on the tightest of budgets, it’s still possible to eat out, and frequently too! Different people prioritise different things of course but if like me, you love food, there are so many restaurants and cafes with student friendly prices. My personal favourites are: Kafeneon, Mascalzone, Fat Hippo and Alvinos.


Newcastle is notorious for its nightlife and there’s no denying it, it’s pretty damn good. It’s cheap, always busy and always a laugh (especially when you end the night in Flares). Just make sure you actually turn up for that 9am the next day…

Pleased to Meet You restaurant, Newcastle.


The location of Newcastle is one of it’s best qualities. A few minutes walk away from leafy Jesmond, twenty minutes from the coast and an hour from Edinburgh, make the most of it and explore! If you haven’t had a trip to Jesmond Dene and Tynemouth beach by the end of the academic year, I’m going to be very disappointed!


You may be an avid sports fan or you may care about it as much as people care about Katie Hopkins’ opinions, but can you really say you live in Newcastle and not go to a match at St James’ Park? Look out for deals from your students’ union for super cheap tickets!


If you’d rather take part in a sport than watch it, there’s a heap of clubs you can join at your university, as well as budget priced gyms across the city. You could even dabble in Yoga, with Yogalillies offering a great student membership or utilise the many parks in the city, and take in the scenery on a jog with your friends.




It may not the be the warmest city in the world (and yes, it is true about the wind) but Newcastle is a beautiful city, with some amazing views on display. Whether it’s a walk along the Quayside and across the Millennium Bridge, or a scenic stroll through the old town, wrap up warm and get your phone at the ready, because Instagram won’t know what’s hit it…

Look up

Newcastle has the most stunning architecture, especially in the city centre, which can be quite unusual for a city. As you walk around, look up and take in the amazing surroundings.

Take part

University is one of the only opportunities you will get to join loads of weird and wonderful societies, try them out and hopefully take up a new hobby! Make the most of this time, have a look at all the societies on offer and if you don’t see one you like, start one yourself!

Grey Street, City Center.


If nights out drinking aren’t your thing, but you want to get out of the flat and have a good time, why not go to a comedy club? The Stand in the centre has some great live, stand up acts on every week and it’s cheap as chips! Plus, it’s been said that laughing can tone your stomach muscles so really, it’s like a free gym class…


Everyone knows that one thing students have in abundance is spare time. You might be told you need to get a job, have a new hobby and be doing things all the time “whilst your young” – but it’s also ok to do nothing. Kick back with a book or a TV series, make a cup of tea and relax, guilt free.

So there we have it, ten ways to make the most out of your first year at university in Newcastle. I hope you found it somewhat helpful, and if it at least inspired you to do one thing you hadn’t thought about before, my work here is done.

If you’d like to read more posts on where to eat, drink and visit in Newcastle, head over to my blog, Written by Girl, where you’ll find the ultimate “Student Guide to Newcastle”.


Eat & Wander: The Borough

When sampling the local pubs around Lancaster with the Real Ale and Cider Society (which I would recommend readers to join), I have been quite impressed with many of the establishments. But all changed when I went to The Borough because that REALLY impressed me.

The moment I stepped into The Borough, I couldn’t believe it was somewhere to go for a pint, it was a much smarter venue than anywhere I’ve ever previously been. There was a traditional feel to the place which had those old fashioned, buttoned burgundy chairs, old prints and photographs covering the walls and really nice Christmas decorations. There was a real tree in each of the bay windows, which gave the place really warm and cosy feel.

The atmosphere was great, especially as the Graduate College happened to be having their Winter Ball there when we arrived and they seemed to be enjoying every minute of it. It was an ideal location on a cold, wet windy December night, when the main thing on your mind was to go home after a long term at University.

When approaching the bar, I was amazed to find that The Borough did their own range of real ale brewed on site, because very few pubs that I have visited did that. The barmen were really friendly and enthusiastic about the ales they sold, which added to the welcoming feel of the place. One of the ales I had was called Crystal and was one of the nicest I’ve had to date – which is all the more surprising when I’m not normally a fan of lighter ales. To top it off I had £1 off my pint because I had my CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) membership card with me.

Unfortunately I didn’t sample the delights of their food menu at that time, but I have heard that they serve excellent food. Their menu includes fillet steak, calamari and spicy chicken ribs for mains and they also do a range of puddings which are not listed on the menu. They do a great deal of “three courses for £22”, which includes a glass of fizz – this would easily save you a couple of pounds per head. This is also perfect for those on a student budget and perhaps would be an idea for somewhere to eat on Valentine’s Day.

It was one of the social highlights of my first term at University and I would really recommend The Borough for any occasion from a wedding reception to a family gathering and even just for a quick evening pint. It was named 2014 Luneside CAMRA Quality Pub of the Year, which doesn’t surprise me at all. I highly recommend real Ale lovers get down there and savour every moment!

The Borough is really accessible being on Dalton Square, it’s no more than five minutes from the bus station or one of the other bus stops. The return there and back to the University is usually around £2.50 so it’s no hassle getting home at the end of the night. I highly recommend it to everyone.

By Harry Fenton


[Image Credit: calflier001]

The Mental Healthcare Lottery: My Personal Experience

Many people are starting to argue that the mental health system in the United Kingdom is in a dangerous place. There is a serious lack of funding with cuts being disproportionately made to mental health services. However, very few of these articles and opinion pieces – of which there are many – provide a real, first person perspective of the care provided.

The sad truth is that mental health treatment has been reduced to a lottery, where people who end up in the system will have vastly differing experiences depending on which unit have beds available. The institutional environments and corresponding rules and regulations can be as distinctive as chalk and cheese. Not only this, proximity to facilities is highly variable: you can be as far from home as an hour, or as close as five minutes. All of this is contingent on where beds are available. Within facilities, the doctors monitoring patients display a wide amount of subjectivity, with different doctors reaching different assumptions on the best course of action for a patient. The conclusion is thus: depending on where you go, the experience can be entirely different.

Having had experiences of two mental health facilities, one in Ormskirk and the other in Lancaster, I feel I can draw a first hand picture of the ‘Mental Healthcare Lottery.’ Both services I was offered were well staffed – who were often caring and compassionate, clearly doing the job because they wanted to make a difference. However, both were very different in the layout of the units and the attitude towards patient care.

In physical appearance the hospitals were remarkably different. At Ormskirk, the facility was set up in quite a similar way to an average hospital. We had rooms which were shared or individual. We also had a single community area where people would socialise or watch television. Adjoining this was was a quiet break room, in which everything was turned off by 12.00pm and was locked. This left people who suffer insomnia or difficulty sleeping with little stimulation at night. Some found it possible to talk with the night staff, which was always helpful for them. Even so, the units doors, floors and such were very much hospital issue, keys were often carried by staff to open doors which made you feel like you were imprisoned more than anything else.

This was in direct contrast to the Orchard in Lancaster, which was a new facility. It felt more like a home rather than an institution. The atmosphere was warmer and although some may criticize extravagance for the patient, it was vital in keeping people at ease rather than being on edge and feeling like a prisoner. There were no keys jangling, as instead people were issued with cards that opened the doors. The rooms were far more homely, all were single bedrooms ensuring privacy and time alone when we wanted or needed it. For example, there was no need to ask to go for a shower because you had one in your room.

The difference in rules and regulations were stark. One example is that at Ormskirk people were only allowed into the outside areas once an hour for 5 minutes and despite the area being secured with a high fence and a ‘fetching’ picture of sunflowers. It seemed there was no budging on this on this policy – I even asked if I could sit outside for an extra five minutes and was told it wasn’t allowed. People were quite clearly institutionalised, lining up at the doors ready to go out for a quick smoke on the hour, every hour. This ‘privilege’ could also be easily revoked. In one incident when two plastic knives went missing from dinner, it was threatened that unless they were found no smoke break was to be allowed for anyone. The rules at times did seem rather random and also confusing, for instance I wasn’t allowed my laptop charger in case it was used as a ligature, but I was allowed my shoelaces and sometimes my belt.

In contrast, the Orchard doors to the outside were always open and there was ample space in which to stroll and talk if you wished to other patients. Going outside was never an issue and something so simple can be remarkable for people’s wellbeing. Time was never an issue either, admittedly because the facilities were better that you could be in the communal lounge at any time and it not be a problem. But nothing was turned off at night and people could come and go as they pleased. In general it had more of a relaxed attitude.

I am of course very grateful to the nurses and doctors who have helped me back to health at both facilities and the continuing treatment I receive. It is clear they are not the problem within the health service, but the real problems are evident. Sadly it is a lottery on what kind of care you receive when in a psychiatric ward and I hope that changes soon, so everyone receives the same standard of care.

By Sam Mace


Image Credit: RHiNO NEAL

Eat & Wander: Go Burrito Lancaster

It’s a tough call deciding where to grab that bite to eat or coffee and cake at the best of times, particularly if you fancy avoiding the same old same old that comes with all of Lancaster’s chain cafés and eateries. But when you choose to look that little harder, we have a bunch of independent treasures from which to select.

One of Lancaster’s most popular independent establishments (and a personal favourite of mine), is Go Burrito. I can’t recall a week in which I haven’t nipped in to pick up my usual Purple card meal deal and stamp my loyalty card, and yet I still come across so many people who’ve never even heard of it!

Having first popped my burrito cherry a couple of years ago, I’ve tried pretty much every combination of filling; from shredded beef to veggie chilli, from cheese to no cheese you get the opportunity to pick from a range of fresh, flavourful fillings and to personalise your order exactly as you wish.

IMG_20141117_183443 (1)go

Burritos come in all shapes and sizes, as do nachos, but for the brave hearted amongst you, Go’s infamous Titanic Challenge may be just what you’re after! Having witnessed my flatmate and only girl attempt to eat the 3ft burrito and accompanying nachos in the allotted 30 minutes, it’s safe to say it is no mean feat!


Go Burrito’s relaxed, quirky atmosphere, friendly staff and affordable menu make it one of the most student friendly spots in Lancaster. The city’s only burrito bar isn’t exactly hidden, located at the bottom of town, opposite St. Nicholas Arcades car park.


In the evening Go doubles up as a tequila bar with regular Go-live nights comprised of acoustic performances from all the best local talent; so maybe for the handful of you out there that can’t appreciate the perfect B, you can spend the night trying out some of Méjico’s finest Tequila. So long as you remember guac is always extra, you really can’t go wrong!

By Sophie Walsh


01524 874 775 | Lancaster Rd LA4 5QR


Does Academic Intelligence = Intelligence for Entrepreneurs?

Fraser Williams is an entrepreneur studying Management and Entrepreneurship at Lancaster University. His recent start-up company, Checkit Proofreading, is a service for students with the ethos that believes in assessment based on student subject ability and not on “painstaking elements of their English language”. It has gained prominence within the university and has partnered up with a number of departments and colleges to benefit student performance in academic subjects.

Here he tells us about his thoughts and misgivings about higher education as a key basis of our academic intelligence and its influence on our employability.

Higher education is seen as the end of our childhood. Something that acts as a ‘funnel’ to our hopeful career success. Ostensibly it is the essential step that must be taken in order to have a truly successful working life. But in a time of rapid industrial change, is it time we inspect the value that education can drive for entrepreneurs more critically? After all, these are going to be the people directing the companies of tomorrow, which every consumer will trust to run companies ethically and efficiently.

There is a paradigm within education that has puzzled me since I started my first year at University. I study Management and Entrepreneurship, and I pay around £9,000 per year to be there. That is cheap compared to the high proportion of international students that our University attracts with some paying much more than this sum. These are incredible amounts to pay to be at an institution to sit exams and study a specific subject, which is what a lot of students are exclusively paying for. The problem this creates is that we have students with degrees who have been entirely reclusive in their study of their subject, who by default outcompete people without degrees in the job market or even people with lower class degrees who have filled their time at university with extra curriculum activities. But I find myself wondering, which student would be more competent when faced with a real task in a company? Someone with ‘practical intelligence’ or someone with academic intelligence?

I would concede that this is not relevant to all subjects. Certainly, more vocational degrees such as engineering require a level of knowledge that is best learned through study and practical education. But for aspiring entrepreneurs, education beyond the fundamentals such as finance and accounting seems superfluous. No amount of PowerPoint presentations will form someone with empathy, interpersonal proficiency or the ability to deal with a situation where an angry client needs to be reassured. Short of a profound shift in the way we teach entrepreneurship, these skills come from dealing with real world situations head on.

So, can we change our perception of intelligence?

Ultimately, I think the issue lies in our employment system, which filters our judgment about how to assess a person’s skills. Some companies will disregard applications from anyone who doesn’t have a degree and rapidly this is becoming anyone who doesn’t have a Masters qualification, an increasing trend as we enter into a perpetuating spiral of ‘survival of the fittest’ (if everyone has a degree, no one does). Having met people who study incredibly difficult subjects (academically speaking) such as mathematics or science, I find it hard to support the view that intelligence is centered on academic performance, and how this somehow acts to define our competence in a potential job.

Sir Ken Robinson speaks about how in school we are benignly led away from ‘softer’ skills such as art, theatre or music, in place of what we view to be more academic, or even ‘useful’ skills. Contrast this with the fact that we no longer live in a society demanding managers and leaders to have the same skills that they needed in the post-industrial period, and where an understanding of art and culture is incredibly important to our society. Jim Davies writes in his book ‘Riveted’ that ‘the creation and consumption of art compromises a major portion of our lives. Young Americans spend about seven and a half hours every day consuming artistic media’. So overlook the ‘softer’ subjects and the skills that come with them at your own peril.

In my opinion the movement to a more holistic way of judging candidates such as test centers and personality reviews is a great thing. I can completely understand the constraints on companies’ cost, meaning ultimately candidates have to be axed by some objective measure, but I believe the real solution lies in finding cost-effective subjective judgment techniques, where we are able to include personal experience at the first assessment hurdle, instead of simply axing anyone without a degree.

In the current climate, it’s key that we continue to strive to do the best we can in university as we are ultimately forced to live in the paradigm that was created all those centuries ago. However, for entrepreneurs and managers (and I imagine for a lot of other future roles), we have to look further and think how we can generate real world experience that will truly improve our competence and intelligence.

By Fraser Williams

[Image Credit: Flazingo Photos]