Next week we see the start of new students and the commencement of the famous Freshers week! As an Associate Lecturer at Bath Spa University and an Adult Ballet and Contemporary Dance teacher at Bath University it is always lovely to meet fresh faced first years, ready with bursts of energy. Starting Higher Education is an exciting prospect but it can also be a huge lifestyle change and it can take some time to settle and find your stride. As a self confessed ‘homebird’, when I was 18, moving from home was a big deal and it took some time to become used to being an independent soul and learning to grow up. Training in dance requires long hours and commitment and adjusting to the intensity of a dance course in addition to figuring out washing machine settings, negotiating Tesco aisles and cooking for yourself can sometimes feel a little daunting. So once all of the excitement of beginning a new course and making new pals has settled, how can you survive university and get the most out of your time there?
1. Be clear as to what your agenda is. Why have you joined the establishment that you have and what does it offer you? Prioritise your study and make it the most important aspect of your focus to enable you to make the most of your time, as it will fly by!
2. Watch as much dance as you possibly can, either at the theatre or on YouTube. Try and observe new work that is going to challenge you and open up your way of thinking, viewing dance and question what it can be. Make the most of being a student and the great discounts that are offered.
3. Try out other dance classes and workshops that build your skill set and encourage you to be a versatile artist. Look at https://www.icia.org.uk/classes/ for other classes such as ballet, contemporary, afro fusion and jazz dance and check out the student discounts that are offered.
4. Look after your body! For a dance course this is absolutely key and it is one of the deciding factors that will get you through the intensity and challenges of dance training. Eat a healthy diet – there are so many easy, nutritional recipes online that are cheap and easy to follow. A microwave dinner never need appear in your fridge. It is also fun to cook with flat mates and share the task together.
5. Drink lots of water and limit the alcohol consumption (I know, this sounds boring but alcohol holds so many toxins and poisons, which circulate the body and it increases the risk of illness, injury and low mood). You can read my recent blog on staying hydrated here: https://hannilysblog.wordpress.com/2016/05/16/keeping-dancers-hydrated/
6. Look after your mind! This is also key to surviving at university and the demands of a dance course. How can you stay sane? Find moments of relaxation to rest and meditate. Try out something that has nothing to do with dance so that you can feel energised and refreshed when you come back to it. Go for a walk, read a book, listen to music, explore nature, take up a new hobbie… Anything that is going to leave you feeling renewed. If you are feeling drained and tired, remember what it is that you love about dance and why you began in the first place.Question what is your motivation for studying on this course?
7. Treat an injury. We can all be guilty of leaving an injury untreated or only having it looked at when it becomes really bad. In Bath we are so fortunate to have the Dance Again Foundation and it allows dancers to receive free physiotherapy treatment at the Royal United Hospital (RUH) in Bath. You can read further about this here:http://www.danceagain.org
8. Be reliable! When you are working and rehearsing in group pieces, it is so fundamental, not to mention professional, to be a reliable, trustworthy member of your team that others can depend on and it helps to develop friendships and working relationships.
9. Ask for help when you need it. Try to not suffer in silence and leave work to the last minute. Lecturers and staff are super friendly and are there to help you. It is what they are paid for and you should never feel stupid when asking for extra help or advice. Be organised and on top of work as it is crucial to achieve your best and it also reduces stress and anxiety levels before a deadline needs to be met.
10. Budgeting! The joys of student loans and managing money can often be a new skill that needs to be acquired speedily to ensure that you are covered for the basics such as food, accommodation and transport. Be organised financially allows you to see your money last through until the end of the term. Here is a useful website that can help you and give money saving tips: http://university.which.co.uk/advice/student-finance/student-finance-budgeting-things-to-remember
Higher Education is a life changing experience that will gift you with life skills and lasting friendships. The beauty of a specialist course allows like minded people to come together to explore and develop their love for dance and feel safe and inspired to flourish and achieve their goals and aspirations. Good luck to all new Freshers!