Wednesday 7th October
So Freshers’ Week is over and already I’m three days into lectures, seminars and workshops. Now that I’ve finally found a spare moment I’m taking the opportunity to look back on last week – a non-stop whirlwind of new people, hallway pyjama parties and the odd jägerbomb or two (sorry Mum!)…
It strikes me that Freshers’ Week has three main aims: firstly to keep you so busy you don’t have time for homesickness; secondly to help you learn your way around your new city and campus, and finally to ensure you gel with your house- and course-mates as quickly as possible. These work together so that by the end of the week you have at least begun to feel both settled into your new surroundings and part of your university community.
York is a collegiate university, so between Monday and Friday of my Freshers’ every event was run by my college. This meant we were swiftly integrated into our college ‘family’; not only did we go out as a house, but as a whole college. York also has a great system known as STYCs. Pronounced ‘sticks’, this stands for Second and Third Year Contacts and two or three are assigned to every house.
Our STYCs were fabulous; each day they would take us to or run different activities and every night they escorted us to various bars and clubs. They helped get us talking to each other and also indoctrinated us into the college rivalry and chants on the bus into town! Most universities will have some kind of system where upper-year students support freshers. Make use of them – not only do they know the university and city, they also remember just how it felt to be in your position.
We also had college- and university-run activities during the day to help us settle in, but even if you don’t have these it’s really beneficial to take a walk around your new city and campus so you can start to get a feel for the place. It’s also a great way to spend time with your new housemates and friends; there’s nothing wrong with getting lost.
But the real focus of Freshers’ Week is what happens at night-time. I’ll admit I wasn’t the ‘typical’ Fresher – I went out four times out of a possible eight. During the week our college ran fancy dress nights like ‘High School Stereotype’ and ‘Thrift Shop’, as well as bar crawls and a Formal. Going out every other night meant that I missed all of the fancy dress, but I didn’t feel like I really missed out by not going out every single night. In fact it meant that when I did go out I wasn’t completely exhausted and could fully enjoy the night.
To each their own – the important thing is to do what feels right for you, and to not feel pressured by other people into doing things you don’t want to. Lots of universities have now caught on to the fact that lots of their Freshers don’t or can’t drink alcohol; many hold alternative events like movie nights or open mics.
Freshers’ is portrayed by the media (and many students) as one of the best weeks of your life. I’ve spoken to a few freshers who didn’t really know how to react when they found themselves struggling – they felt like they were doing Freshers’ ‘wrong’. In reality, this is totally normal. You’ve just packed up your life and moved away to live with total strangers and embark on a whole new level of academic study – very few people could manage all of that without at least one or two wobbly moments.
There’s no way around homesickness, but your housemates will understand how you’re feeling – talking it out can help everyone feel better. It really is okay to feel overwhelmed and upset. Similarly, taking care of yourself physically can help: as fun as going out with your new friends is, by midweek alcohol consumption, poor diet and lack of sleep will start to take their toll. You’ll probably feel tired and run-down, and these things contribute to that general feeling of sadness and homesickness.
If you feel you’d really benefit from an evening in, a decent meal and an early night, go for it – your housemates might even be grateful for the option. One of my favourite moments from Freshers’ Week was when all eight of us were sat on our staircase in our pyjamas drinking tea at two-am; actually having the chance to just sit and chat was really refreshing after nights of drinking, dancing and selfie-taking.
The most important thing to remember is that Freshers’ Week is just the beginning – whether you have the time of your life or you just want it to be over, it isn’t going to be representative of your university career. Spend some time preparing yourself for the start of classes; talk to your course-mates, familiarise yourself with your department, or just do some reading. You’ll feel much less stressed when your first lectures come around if you’ve done even the smallest amount of preparation.
Finally, if your Freshers’ Week doesn’t feel or look like other people’s on social media, try not to worry. There’ll be those groups who seem to click immediately; there’ll be that couple who meet on the first night and seem to stay together forever; there’ll be that housemate who fits into uni life straight away. Just because you don’t have the same experience doesn’t mean that your time at university will be any less successful or happy. I’ve been incredibly lucky to have had such a wonderful experience, but if that isn’t you, don’t panic. Freshers’ really isn’t the be-all and end-all; there’s so much time and opportunity to make this year fantastic – and now is the time to be making the most of it.
Let me know your Freshers’ Week experiences in the comments, and check back next Monday to read about my first proper week as a student!
(picture: with almost all of my wonderful housemates at our college formal)
this post was originally published on SpiceUKOnline