Throw yourself into university life with our must-read guide to swerving ‘freshers’ flu’ & staying well

While meeting new friends, signing up for modules and surviving endless nights out might be front of mind, fatigue, burnout and good old-fashioned home sickness can leave you reeling. 

There is also ‘freshers’ flu’, a rite of passage for many students in the autumn/winter term, but one most would rather avoid. While not actually flu, the phrase has become popular due to so many students coming down with flu-like symptoms during their first term. Why? It may be linked to the immune system and triggered by eating junk food, lack of sleep, mingling and drinking too much alcohol. If you do get it, you may experience cold-like symptoms, including sneezing, dry cough, fever, headache and grogginess, all of which can leave you feeling less than your best, as well as put a dampener on your studies and social life. It’s important to stay hydrated and rest. If your symptoms get worse or you’re concerned about your symptoms, speak to a GP to rule out other causes.

The flu is a different thing altogether. Flu symptoms tend to come on very quickly and include a fever, an aching body, dry cough, sore throat, headache, diarrhoea, feeling or being sick and loss of appetite. Flu will often get better on its own, but it can make some people seriously ill. Some students may be eligible for the free NHS flu jab, including those with certain medical conditions. If you think this applies to you, check the NHS website in your country for more details. It’s important to get the flu jab if you’re advised to. You can book an appointment with your GP or a pharmacy that offers the NHS flu jab*. The flu jab is also available as a private service**.

With all that said, we wanted to find out from recent graduates who’ve been there and worn the novelty T-shirts for the wellness tips they swear by to help you make the most of your first days of university life.

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Rachel Redondo
The new grad

Rachel Redondo, 23, Digital and Operations Manager at Twenty-Two Business Support & Development, graduated from Manchester University with a BA in Spanish and Linguistics

I’d heard that ‘freshers’ ‘flu’ is hard to dodge and saw other students dropping like flies around me and missing out on the fun of freshers’ week. I wanted to make sure I slept enough, ate well and took care of myself. While Berocca Orange can’t protect from actual flu, its 11 vitamins and minerals including vitamin B12 can help support your immune system and energy levels, which I needed during long days spent studying and socialising.

All that excitement and forgetting to wash your face before bed can contribute to breakouts over the next few days. I didn’t want to have to worry about blemishes and blackheads as well as getting stuck into studying. Before or after a night out, or when I managed to get a rare night alone in my room, I washed my face with Boots Tea Tree & Witch Hazel Exfoliating Face Scrub, to help unclog pores and rinse away the day’s debris. I followed with a mask to fit my – and my skin’s – mood. Garnier Sheet Mask Discovery Collection, includes full sheet masks and eye masks to choose from. The collection is the perfect solution to help skin look quenched and dewy in just 15 minutes – whether you’re rushing to get ready to head ‘out out’ or sitting down to write an essay.

Not sure what your immune system really is or how it works? Our guide to giving it some TLC should help.

The post-grad

Martin John Anthony Parsons, 34, English Language and Academic Skills tutor at the University of Nottingham International College, graduated from Nottingham Trent University with a PhD in Modern Languages and Linguistics

I used to think that other qualifications were hard work, but a PhD is a true labour of love. Taking care of yourself takes precedence over partying, but you still get caught up in the excitement and discounted drinks during freshers’ week – although it takes longer to recover in your mid-30s than when you are 18. 

Martin John Anthony Parsons

In the shower, Original Source Mint & Tea Tree Shower Gel,  made with 15,854 tingling mint leaves, is all I need to revive myself in the morning after a late night socialising or tapping away at the keyboard. But in the evening, a soak in Westlab Mindful Epsom Bath Salts with CBD Oil, is just the thing to help me unwind. It’s packed with Epsom and Himalayan salts and infused with frankincense and bergamot essential oils – I might be paying a mortgage, but spending freshers’ week in your own home without sharing a bathroom feels much more luxurious!

I don’t have children, but Childs Farm Baby Moisturiser, is always something I pop in my basket! It might not be the most rugged skincare range but hear me out. When suffering from dry skin after burning the candle at both ends, the internet reliably informed me that this miracle elixir could help smooth and hydrate rough and dry skin patches. It works like a dream.

Nitzan Baybus
The international student

Nitzan Baybus, 24, is studying Film at the University of Westminster

I’m originally from Israel, so I know the power of wearing SPF – even in cloudier climates. I’ve tried everything, but my go-to for reliable and wearable daily sun protection is Cetaphil Daily Defence Moisturiser SPF50+. It’s light, absorbs in moments and doesn’t clog pores, so I can be on the go without having to worry about ultraviolet damage. This is paired with Revolution Conceal and Define Concealer, to help hide dark circles when I need to be out and about after being out late – and it won’t break the bank!

It can be tricky to adjust from living in your own home with family to living, studying and trying to sleep in student halls with reams of people pottering around. Boots Mouldable Wax Earplugs, saved my sleep. Simply warm them slightly in your hands before rolling between your fingers into a cone shape and inserting firmly in your ear.

Struggling to get some shut-eye? Our guide to getting a good night’s sleep should help you rest easy.

 The working/vocational student

Ola Majekodunmi, 24, member of The Graduate Diary, is a podcast host and founder of All Things Money and graduated from the University of Birmingham in business management with a year in industry

I’ve done my research and studies suggest that dehydration can impact both attention span and memory. In short, quaffing water as you study is a good idea. I like a water bottle like the Fizz Creations - Sip Me Baby Water Bottle, that looks cute and is bright enough to spot in the bottom of your bag.

Ola Majekodunmi

When I finished studying or working for the day and was ready for some downtime, self-care was essential because university can be an emotionally challenging experience. Taking yourself away from the crowds – as well as your roommates – is important to de-stress. A good route to calm is to place yourself in a peaceful environment with a fragranced candle. I love the Champneys Calm Candle***. It’s formulated with the gentle notes of geranium, cedarwood and eucalyptus essential oils to ground and centre you. If naked flames aren’t allowed in your halls, a pillow spray is another calming ritual. Botanics Peaceful Night Pillow Mist, is made from a 100% natural blend of lavender and sweet marjoram essential oils that, when spritzed across the pillow pre-sleep, led to 82% of consumers† agreeing they felt calm and relaxed in the morning after using it for a week.

For more back to uni inspo, check out our guide to the best uni bag beauty buys.

*Funded by the NHS. Available in most Boots pharmacies in England and Wales and in the IOM and in some Boots pharmacies in Scotland. Subject to availability. Eligibility criteria apply.
**Selected stores only, subject to stock availability and availability of suitably trained pharmacists. Eligibility criteria apply and charges may apply.  
***Never leave a burning candle unattended.
†Consumer testing on 75 women, 2019.