Avoiding a Knockout: Advice from a UCL dropout

Lauren Klieff

If you are thriving and full of enthusiasm to take on a new academic year; congratulations on your relative stability! Please relish in your optimism, which is a true strength for someone subjected to life in London in 2023.

Retaining positivity whilst hanging about the squalor of your £315 a week house share should be considered a superhuman ability. Unfortunately, this article is not aimed at you, you scholarly, well adjusted heavyweight.

This is for those who feel unprepared to step into the ring, which is prob- ably the majority of people reading this. Tragically, life doesn’t stop because you need to prepare for university.

Therefore, whether you’ve been working so long you still hear phantom tills beeping in your sleep, struggling to sort things out with your family or dealing with enough friend drama to fill at least 5 group chats and 2 burn books – there is a very real and potentially dangerous possibility that:

You arrive at UCL as an absolute mess.

And that’s ok, as long as it doesn’t leave you knocked out and feeling completely defeated, like I did circa November 2022. Having arrived at UCL messier than a land- fill, I found it difficult to do much of anything. The longer I went without sorting out my problems, the more they spiralled into each other.

Eventually, I woke up one day at 1pm with spaghetti on my floor. I am unsure how it got there. As I was frantically scrubbing the tomato sauce out of my carpet in a desperate attempt to get my deposit back (I succeeded btw), I realised I had reached a critical mass of mess. This was my knockout. There was so much I needed to sort out for myself, it was impossible to continue studying and I submitted my application to interrupt by the end of the week.

However, I am now ready to come back for round two and able to use that experience to make a hard-hit- ting article (literally, due to its boxing theme) on how to avoid getting to that point. So, for those moments when the Portico columns feel like prison bars and Bloomsbury is more like a boxing ring than a second home, these are my recommendations of things you can do for yourself to fin- ish the bout, clinch first year and ideally avoid my spaghetti encrusted fate.

1. Explore your accommodation

Assuming you are a fresher living in student accommodation, this is basic but legitimate advice. The kitchen is pretty straightforward – you’d be a bit hard-pressed not to find it. But the other facilities? They can actually be a bit of a struggle.

I was in Ian Baker and the common room was shared with Ramsay. Ramsay is a massive, panopticon-esque prison complex. The building is so large in fact, that it requires signage through out to direct the hapless souls who are damned to navigate Ramsay’s labyrinthine structure. Much like a modern day Theseus, except the Minatour is the anguish of your surroundings rather er than a physical creature. Needless to say, I was put off entering and instead opted to meet people in the kitchen.

Other common rooms can be equally formidable. The one in John 3. Escape Bloomsbury Adams is tucked into a crevice so far removed from the residents that the word ‘common’ should be removed from its title altogether. Study rooms can be equally hidden but are also of great importance. Trust me, you’ll want to know where it is when the student centre is inevitably full and you are desperately scanning all the nearby ca- fes for a table. So please, look around your accommodation. It’s definitely worth it. Even if you live in Ian Baker.

2. Get some sleep

After the seemingly endless summer break, your sleeping schedule might be completely ruined. This is understandable, but not ideal during freshers week where you will likely want to be feeling your best. Living off scrounged sleep can make it challenging to speak to the singles, queens and kings on campus, because you’ll probably need to find them in mattress form instead.

Speaking of, the nature of freshers week goes against every single action you can take to be well rested. Alas, already university scheduling is fighting below the belt.

Endless activities at night vs inductions and yet more activities during the day makes downtime limited. Connecting with new people and keeping up to date on what’s happening next means that you spend a lot of time on your phone. These are not bad things, they just make it difficult to have time to look after yourself. If at any point you start feeling tired, ill or generally not right, take time off to actually get some rest. I promise, the DMs are never that serious, you’ll know how to answer them tomorrow and having a strong immune system to fight freshers flu is more important. Get some sleep before sleep sucker punches you.

3. Escape Bloomsbury

The area around UCL and most of its student accommodation can be A LOT. Surrounded by colossal grey (beautiful, but still concrete and a bit bleak) buildings, buzzing shopping areas and a sea of fellow students, it can get overwhelming very quickly. I made the mistake of staying around the area, never straying from zones 1 / 2 and trying to power through. This resulted in me having a crisis in late October because it had been a month since I’d seen a ‘proper tree’, I then left my accommodation at 2am in search of said proper tree and ended up halfway across London.

Tip: don’t do this, it is not a good look.

Instead, I’d recommend making TfL work for you and going some place where you can really lose yourself (either in a relaxing way or more likely, in the genuine Hampstead Heath, Brockwell Park and Dulwich Park are all lush if you can make the trek over; avoiding the borderline homicidal pigeons, the equally homicidal London crazies and withstanding the infamously sweaty tube to do so. Whilst it’s Autumn and there’s still some modicum of sunlight, it’s an ideal time to go and scout nice places for when you need a break from the Gower Street gloom.

Hopefully, this advice should help keep you fighting fit and throwing academic punches. Both stable and able to enjoy your time at uni, ready to defeat all the rounds of challenges thrown your way. You have more strength than you know; even on the days when you feel like the under- dog, you still have a mean uppercut. Prioritise the things which keep you happy (even when life and your own thoughts get in the way) to stay UC- well and out of feeling like UC-hell <3