Alexander Smith, 22, final year student in Marine Studies at the University of Wales, Cardiff.

I thought university was going to be much more outrageous than it was. Although it was wild at times, most people seemed clued up about when to stop and get serious about their degrees.

Having said that, most of my first year was spent in a drunken haze. Cardiff is a great city, with loads of good pubs and cheap beer. I can't remember the number of times we would go to the pub for lunch and end up skipping lectures to drink and talk all afternoon. It was great, but I had an added incentive.

It was partly my own fault, partly bad advice from school that I applied to study engineering, not because I particularly found it interesting, but because it is a good degree to have if you are considering going into the navy as I was.

But I hated it. I had no motivation or enthusiasm for it, so I transferred to my present course at the end of my first year. I'd really recommend you study a subject which interests you rather than one which will make ends meet because it can make life miserable.

My whole experienced changed when I started my new degree. I started enjoying what I was learning and was happy to put the time in. The work can seem daunting at first, because you have no idea how to approach it, but you are soon shown the ropes. Lectures are important, but only as a starting point for a subject, you soon learn that study is all about the work you do independently.

It is so much better than being at school because you can decide for yourself when to work and when to go out.

I was in halls my first year and then moved into a shared flat in my second. Student accommodation is infamous for being squalid, but you can find some decent flats if you start looking early and take time to chose.

The best thing about university is the chance to learn about something you are interested in and make friends with people you'd probably never meet at home. It opens your mind and gives you a new perspective on life.