Freshers week is a feast of firsts and one off happenings. You’ll only leave home for the first time once. You’ll only move in with strangers for the first time once. You’ll only start university for the first time once.
These experiences are common to every one, but you may have others. One thing’s for certain – it’ll be the time of your life.
For some universities it’s freshers week right now – for others the chaos begins next week. We spoke to people who know all about surviving freshers week and student life to get the best advice; recent graduates.
These are people that have not only been there and done that – they’ve lived to tell the tale, finished their courses and got to wear the funny hat and gown they give you at the end of your three years. You should pay attention to what they have to say.
Surviving the Week
There are two freshers weeks. The official week’s activities laid on by your university and student union are designed to ease you into academic life, with a series of events, introductory presentations and the virtual paperwork of registration.
Then there’s the “freshers week” that happens outside the university – explicitly designed to part you from your loan.
The wodge of cash you get at the beginning of the semester may be the most money you’ve ever had. You’ll land in a city or town full of new students – perhaps one that’s unfamiliar to you, but probably not. You’re just about old enough to drink legally. These three things together can be a dangerous combination.
There’ll be club promoters on every corner with the promise of cheapo drinks, pubs and fast food restaurants trying to reel you in with 2 for 1 offers. Keep this is mind; it’s expensive to go out every night and eat out for every meal whether it’s heavily discounted or not… This is not a lifestyle – this is real life.
You will, of course, want to enjoy yourself though. The best advice anyone can offer here is, don’t go mad.
Remember this: fresher’s week isn’t an endurance test. It’s not a week in Ibiza. It’s the beginning of your university career.
Some students make the mistake of thinking that fresher’s week is what university is like, keeping up the clubbing and all-nighters long after the Autumn warmth of September has faded. We like to call those students Triple F; “Future Fast Food Employees”.
Your student loan is meant to last, paying for food, bills, rent and books until the next lot comes along. The most sensible students budget from the beginning. Food is a huge expense. Bigger than you might expect.
Food prices have been rising since the recession and are likely to continue to do so until 2018, according to one report.
There are ways to cut your food bill right from the beginning. We suggest:
- Cooking all food from scratch and taking turns with flatmates if you can
- Using the A Girl Called Jack website for cheap recipes and advice on saving on food
- Making meal plans so that you only buy ingredients for the food you cook
Recent graduate Kirsten Thorpe found that student life turned her into a bargain hunter
“I buy in bulk or wait for items I want to go on sale,” Kirsten told us, “Recently I found a shop that had cans of monster for 69p. I picked up about 20 cans and saved at least 50% over buying it at a campus shop.”
One of the biggest worries new students have is that they won’t make friends. Funny thing is, everyone else is thinking the same; worrying they’ll be the one who gets left out.
“Even if you’re not a really outgoing person, join in as much as possible,” says Alice Booth, who graduated this summer, “Remember that everyone else is really nervous too, it’s not just you.”
The scramble to make friends is so primal that you may even end up making more friends than you want. The first people you sit near are in danger of becoming your special “Freshers Friends”. They invite you to lunch and you’re so afraid that you won’t meet anyone else that you hang-out for a day or two even though you have little in common… A week or two down the line, you’ve hooked up with people you have more in common with – and you pass your freshers friend in the corridor. You both look the other way… This is both horribly embarrassing and perfectly normal.
So, making friends will probably be easier than you expect – but you have to ensure you meet the right people. Especially if you’re naturally shy. That means making the most of opportunities to choose your friends.
“Get yourself out there,” says Kirsten, “A big mistake I made was not being proactive in meeting people and joining clubs. When I had a bad patch later on, I didn’t have very close people around me.”
Living in Halls
Most students with a conditional offer will be allocated halls on arriving at university. These days even private student accommodation resembles the “living in halls” experience – with shared kitchens, bathrooms and communal areas. It’s a safe student bubble and you should make the most of it.
“I lived at home throughout uni so didn’t get involved with freshers at all…” says journalist Beth Wilson, another summer graduate, “I saved a lot of money living at home but I wouldn’t advise it to others. You do miss out on ‘uni life’ and it meant you’re probably only going to be friends with coursemates. Most people meet their friends through living in halls.”
Another recent graduate, Amy Johnson, offers a tip for making friends when you arrive.
“Leave your bedroom door open if you’ve just moved into halls and you’re just chilling out. People are much more likely to pop their head around the door and start a conversation if you do!”
Finding Your Way Around
You’re not just starting a new life away from home when you go to university. Lots of students are experiencing a new part of the country for the first time. Erik Selby, who graduated this year, has an idea for getting to know your surroundings while bonding with your new friends.
“Explore the city with your new flat mates,” says Erik, “Work out your bus and train routes to Uni. Depending on what city you’re in, lots of Unis do cheap bike rental schemes with pre-planned and mapped safe routes to Uni from accommodation and between campuses.”
Another thing to remember; if you have a smartphone you have personal sat-nav. Open up Google Maps on an Android phone or Apple Maps on iOS and you’ll never be lost.
Do Something New
There’s a fresher’s week “fringe” of beery delights and club nights, but students cannot live on Jagerbombs alone.
As well as your course of study, university gives you a chance to try things you may never have thought of. Hannah, a young student from Stoke was homesick and ready to leave her course three weeks in until a tutor suggested she join a society or club. She took up climbing and never looked back. Or down.
Edward was another student who found it difficult to get talking to others. He joined the university Lacrosse team, learned a new sport and got to travel with the side as it played in tournaments all over the country.
‘Take advantage of all the opportunities that are given to you,” says Jessica Balme, a recent graduate who now works with Leeds Beckett University’s Student Union, “Try something that you wouldn’t ever dream of, join a society and get as much course related experience as you can. But be careful not to burn out!”
Getting Ready for Study
And finally – the main reason you’re actually at university during fresher’s week at all is so you can start your degree. We know that may be a radical idea to get your two Bs and a C at A level around, but it’s the hard truth.
While freshers week is going on all around you, with its shiny special offers, poster sales and society fairs, a parallel thing called “Induction Week” is also happening. That’s the official stuff the university want you to go to. Here’s our best piece of advice:
That stuff is not optional.
It’s the actual reason you’re there and if you miss any of it, you’re going to be mighty confused. Don’t believe us? Ask Polly Wilson who is currently acing her final year at Leeds Beckett University:
“New students should make sure they attend everything they’re required to right at the start,” says Polly “All the inductions that are needed, tours of the University and the Fresher’s Fair. This really helped me through the first semester of my course because I felt I was prepared.”
There you have it – straight from the mouths of graduates and students who’ve been through freshers week and survived. Now it’s your turn, soldier. Keep your head down, make sure your shoelaces are tied and never buy cocktails by the jug. You’ll be fine.