If you’re a Fresher, you’re probably taking part in a taster session, doing some shopping in the city or getting stopped in the Forum by every other person that wants you to join their societies. You’ve already been to loads of socials and taster sessions but can’t decide which ones to join, though the Activities Fair is around the corner? Wilko has run out of everything and you still don’t have forks and knives? You think you bought all the essentials and then realise you don’t have a peeler when you’re about to make some sweet potato fries? Even though you might think you’re the only one having concerns or struggling with eating a proper meal that doesn’t cost you a fortune, believe me, YOU ARE NOT!
This year I’m a member of the International Welcome Team so you might have already bumped into me in my bright pink T-shirt. However, last year I was in the same boat as you are now. It seems ages away now but my Freshers’ Week was just a year ago and I arrived with the same level of excitement and nervousness as you did a few days ago. I hadn’t known anyone before I came here and I hadn’t been able to make it to an open day so I really had no idea what to expect apart from the information I gathered from websites and acquaintances. I had mixed feelings throughout my first week but surprisingly, I never really felt homesick. There was so much going on that I didn’t have time to feel down or think about my home. To be honest, it’s hard to recall now but I know I felt lost and because of my terrible sense of direction, it took me a while to find my way around the campus and the city (God Bless Google Maps!) Overall, it was an amazing week because I’d never had any experience with campus life before and I really enjoyed the activities and the new environment. I know I could’ve made more of the week but the most important thing is that I enjoyed it and was open to new things. I might have been a bit too shy in the beginning but it’s normal when going to university, especially if it’s in another country, so don’t worry if you lack great confidence at first, I promise you’ll get there eventually!
Lot of people say you’ll meet your best friends during your first week and this determines your experience at uni. Plus I also thought that I was the only one having difficulties with the transition to university. After one-year experience, I see that some people did meet their best friends during Freshers’ Week and their flatmates remain their closest friends and they still keep in touch after three years. However, I also heard horror stories about how terrible it may be when students in the same flat don’t get along. My experience is somewhere in-between. I was living in Mardon Hall, which is a catered residence with over 100 people living in one single building. I was allocated a single room (there are some twin rooms as well) along the main corridor, which could be quite noisy at times but it wasn’t too disturbing as I studied in the library most of the time. I got on well with the girls on my corridor and we usually had dinner together but never became the closest friends. I met more people and made more friends on my course and in societies, though. Maybe it’s because I share the same interests with these people, maybe not, but this is how it turned out for me and it may be completely different in your case.
This would be my single most important advice. However you’re feeling, don’t hold it back! If you’re homesick, stressed or overwhelmed, go and talk to someone! It may be your friend, your personal tutor, the International Student Support Office or the Wellbeing Centre – they would all be more than happy to help you. On the other hand, if you’re happy or have great news that you want to share with someone, do so! Also, be open to new things throughout the year (not just during Freshers’ Week)! The University has tons of events every month, so make sure that you’re up to date and don’t miss out! Job fairs, talks and cultural events are a great way to socialise and meet interesting people.
And for next year: be part of the Welcome Team! I’m incredibly happy that I decided to join as I met the best people there, my team is amazing and we have great time together! Freshers’ Week may be completely different when you’re on the other side but no less fun! One thing I’m sure of is that I’ll keep in touch with my team after this week, too and we’ll organise some gatherings together. Team 1 ♥