So – you’ve made it, finished school, passed your exams, and enjoyed some study-free time to chill out. But next comes one of the biggest challenges of your time at university – Freshers’ Week! No matter who you are, starting Uni is a stressful experience – but it doesn’t have to be a nightmare!
The Freshers’ Week experience
If you are wondering what to expect, you’ll find Freshers’ week is an amazing and heady mix of parties, fantastic fun, staying up all night ... and standing in endless queues as you try to get everything sorted out for your course and accommodation! It’s a unique opportunity to meet new people, as well as a chance to join new clubs and societies, make new friends and think about what is really important to you for your time at university. Freshers’ week is a very social time, and there will be lots of chances to go to parties, clubs, gigs etc. You may feel under pressure to be out every night, or find that you struggle to get any sleep at all. It can be rather intense, and sometimes it can feel like Fresher’s Week is the be all and end all of university life. In fact it really is just the beginning. You will probably find you experience some mixed emotions about the whole thing. You may have spent months looking forward to leaving home, but find yourself feeling anxious about what living on your own or in student halls will really be like. Or you might be really looking forward to meeting new people and stuff, but be worried about missing your friends and family from home. It is totally normal to feel like this – really excited one minute, then dreading it the next!
Surviving Freshers’ Week
First, remember that it is totally normal to be daunted by that first week at Uni. Very few people sail through Fresher’s Week without a single misgiving, or negative feeling. With your normal support team miles away, you might find yourself feeling the odd pang of homesickness. If this happens then don’t worry – it’s totally normal! Right at the beginning of the Bible, God looks at the man He had created, and says ‘it is not good for the man to be alone.’ (Genesis 2v8). If you look at the Greek word that is translated as ‘alone’, it actually means to be ‘cut off’ or ‘disconnected’. Humans are designed with a basic need deep within them to be connected with other people. That’s why starting out and knowing no one can leave you feeling so lost. Those feelings will start to settle down once you get to know more people and put down some roots.
Second, most people are not really quite as extreme as they appear to be in Fresher’s Week! All that nervous energy leaves lots of people acting in some slightly odd and over the top ways. Try not to be alarmed! A quick survey amongst people I went to university with revealed some interesting week one reminiscences including:
one person who accidentally introduced herself with the wrong name (and had to keep using it for quite a long time as a result)
one who went to the wrong lecture hall for his first lecture and was too scared to admit it so sat through an hour of the wrong subject
one who went to a party with some people from his hall, popped to the loo at one point, then couldn’t recognise the group he’d come with when he got back,
and another who drank too much the first night and was so scared of throwing up everywhere that he spend the entire night sleeping in the bath.
All of these people are actually very normal and nice and (I can vouch for them) not actually loopy at all. They all survived Fresher’s Week and all made friends.
Third, remember that you are not alone in finding this tough. No matter how much people try to hide it, most of them are feeling as daunted as you. You probably feel convinced that no one would ever want to talk to you, but the truth is that most people will just be utterly relieved that someone is talking to them! Don’t be afraid to make the first move. Remember the key questions that everyone will be asking – what’s your name, where are you from, what subject are you studying, what A levels did you get - and try to think of some more interesting ones too. You could go with ‘what animal would you like to be if you could choose anything’ or maybe you can think of something better! It’s well worth having a tactic for that initial first contact too. Try something as simple as offering someone a polo – it often works! Remember just because you talk to someone in Fresher’s Week doesn’t mean that you have to be best friends for the rest of your life. Don’t put too much pressure on those early conversations and try to relax.
Fourth, don’t panic! Remember Fresher’s Week is actually just one week. In fact it’s a pretty odd week and by no means is it a good measure of what the rest of university life will be like. If you get to the end of that week and feel like you know no one and want to go home, don’t despair. Give yourself time, and give things a chance to settle down and form their own version of ‘normal’. Then you will find people become much more chilled out and easier to get to know. Plus, as you feel more settled and start to know vaguely where you are and where you are supposed to be when, your own anxiety levels will drop, making it much easier to start to get to know people. Give yourself a break and try not to worry too much.
Do you recognise any of these people?
People try to handle the stresses of Fresher’s Week in different ways. Have you met any of these yet?
The perpetual partier.
Possibly the most visible character in Fresher’s Week, this person has listened to the message about wild and continuous partying, and taken it at its word. They are always to be seen at the biggest social gigs, and seem to have endless energy. Rarely spotted within daylight hours, they emerge with new confidence at around the same time as the bar opens.
The cool dude.
Talk about dress to impress, this person has read all the [hidden] rules and got them in their blood. Never to be seen looking rough or ready, this person treats every new day on campus as a catwalk experience. They wear the right clothes, listen to the right music, eat or drink the right things. In fact, they look and act exactly the way you wish you could look and act. Trouble is, no one knows who they actually are, what they are really like, or even if they are real…
The sports fanatic.
A daunting sight, this person has found their confidence in sport, and can be easily recognised by their sports bag/equipment/university sports team sweatshirt. They have often played at county level in more than one sport, and probably go jogging several times a week. Conversations and social life alike revolve around sport and may be rather daunting when compared to your vague awareness of some of the rules of squash.
If you need to find the clown just follow the sounds of raucous laughter, because funny is what this person does. They have perfected over many years the skill of directing attention away from them, whilst still somehow remaining the centre of attention. They are a big fan of practical jokes and anything that makes other people look silly. The clown appears confident and may show no cracks in this flawless confident exterior. Underneath of course they are as scared as everyone else. Remember Coco and Krusty…
The invisible (wo)man.
This person is seized by a terror that people might notice them, only outweighed by the terror of what will happen if no one notices them. They aim to remain hidden and only go out when they absolutely have to. Social occasions are very hard, but they find solace in quiet places. Invisible (wo)men often claim to dislike loud places or social gatherings but often inside there is a much more confident person trying to get out.
Faced with the pressures of Fresher’s Week this person has simply decided to try to pretend they are not there. Spaced out on some substance you may not be able to identify, they are difficult to engage in meaningful conversation, though strangely relaxing to be with. Easy to identify by their vacant expression, or by strange smells, empty beer cans or mysterious smoke coming from under their door.
Often a variant of the serious student, entrepreneurs have been watching Dragon’s Den and they are keen to make something of their university experience. Diligent attendance of all lectures, especially those following on from major parties or events presents a money making opportunity as entrepreneurs offer printed copies of their lecture notes for a small fee. This aids their popularity as they are often the only people with enough money to buy luxury items like food and decent wine.