Tips to Enjoy the First Week of University

Written by Lauren MA International Film Business student

Arriving in a completely new city and starting a new life can be pretty scary, especially if you arrive alone. As an international postgraduate student who travelled all across the world to Exeter, I would like to share my experience of my first week of University. Hopefully, it will help you relieve the anxiety of moving into university.

A little thing about me, my name is Lauren. Originally from Canton, China, I spent my past few years studying Filmmaking in Beijing before coming to the UK. I’m approaching the end of my MA in International Film Business, a programme that is run by the University of Exeter and London Film School. Even though I only spent my first term in Exeter, it was still my first time being a postgraduate student in a new country. Typically, the first week for a new student will be fresher’s week without any official classes. It’s a great time to get familiar with the city and university as well as connect with new people. The following blog content will feature the things I prepared for in advance and how I spent my fresher’s week as a new postgraduate student.

  • Before departure: check all your documents

University will be sending out welcome emails in August including some important information about schedules, arrival information and fresher’s week. Try to read through these emails carefully and take notes then arrange your schedule accordingly. It will be a good practice for English as a second language students to get used to reading and studying in an English environment in advance. For non-EU students, most of us need to present our documents at registration and do a police registration during the fresher’s week, which requires lots of important documents. Make a checklist of them and try to prepare several copies, especially your passport, to save time and trouble. Although there’re lots of copy machine on campus, the first week might be extremely busy as everyone needs to make photocopies but are struggling to learn how to use the machines!

  • Arrive during day time

If you live in private accommodation, it will make things so much easier if you pick the right time to arrive, ideally before the groceries stores close. Not a lot of shops are open ’til late in Exeter, so spare the time if you need to grab necessities or food on your first day of arrival.

View from my window, taken on my first day in Exeter

  • Step out and walk around

Seize your excitement of being in a new city and explore around! To be honest I didn’t walk around university and the city much after I settled in. So, do this when you’re still fresh to the new environment. I arrived on Saturday and went out on the second day of arrival. Fresher’s week did not officially start back then so I was able to explore the quiet campus. The weather was nice in September. I still remember I fell in love with the beautiful scenery as soon as I stepped on to the Streatham campus.

Streatham Campus in September

Exeter is not a very big city and most of the places are accessible by foot. My private accommodation is approximately 35 minutes’ walk to the Forum, the centre of Streatham campus. But I still prefer to walk every day instead of taking a bus. The nice view along my way makes me feel relaxed and walking is a good exercise to help me stay active during some busy days.

My daily walk to school

The second day of arrival, I went to collect my Exeter student card and BRP. Then I walked down from campus to the city centre. The majority of Exeter’s shops and restaurants are spread out along the high street area. Compared to other cities, I will say that Exeter has a pretty tiny city centre area. But it is still able to fulfil your basic needs of life as it has the most common shops and brands. My favourite thing to do in the city centre is to walk around the Princesshay shopping centre and take a rest on the green near Exeter Cathedral or enjoy an amazing hot chocolate drink from Chococo. The M&S Foodhall in the city centre is a popular place among Chinese students. It has lots of high-quality ready meals that can fill your stomach when you don’t have enough equipment or ingredient to cook during the first week.

Walk to the city centre

  • Attend freshers’ week activities

For our programme, we have a two-day induction session during freshers’ week. The induction session was helpful and included much useful information such as where the classes take place, school facilities, course structure, assignments, language support and so on. I was very excited to meet my classmates. We spent lots of time together during the session and became familiar with each other. Frankly, I am not an extremely sociable person, especially when speaking out of my mother tongue, meeting new people gives me anxiety. But all my classmates were very nice and patient and willing to get to know each other despite my language barrier at the time.

Visit to the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum during induction

Outside of programme induction, the university also arranged a series of fresher activities, such as the freshers’ fair. I went to the freshers’ fair with my new classmates. We had some free food, enjoyed the university fair atmosphere and went to check out some societies. Going to freshers’ week activities is a good chance to connect with your new friends and you can feel the excitement of freshers in the air. As we only studied in Exeter for a term, we were not able to get that much involved with the Exeter student community. But we still managed to make some friends through the activities arranged by the postgraduate society throughout the term.

Fresher’s fair food truck

  • Go for a short trip to the beach

We had a local student in our  class who suggested that we should go to the beach and enjoy the last bit of sunshine before summer ended. He told us there’s a nice beach in Exmouth, which is only 30 min away by train from Exeter. When the induction ended, a few people from my class were interested in this idea so we went on a tiny field trip together the day after. From my perspective, the best way to bond with friends is go on a trip together. We talked a lot, sat on the beach, played Frisbee, walked around the town and had fish and chips in the park. We shortly became close friends after that and did lots of group projects together throughout the terms.

Exmouth beach

The first week of university is all about getting ready for your future study. I was quite worried before coming to the UK regarding the foreign city, fitting in an English environment, making friends, etc. But it turned out to be an interesting week. Just be nice to people, don’t be afraid to introduce yourself, and go explore as much as you can. At the end of my first week, I felt I had enough knowledge of my surrounding environment and felt comfortable and ready to start my study. Hope you have as much as fun during your first week as I did and happily survive the transition period.