With the beginning of university terms fast approaching, I thought it would be fitting to do a post on my experience of and tips for the conundrum that is Fresher's Week. I found the first couple of weeks of university to be very difficult, despite being told that they were going to be none-stop fun. However, do not fret! I did settled in and thoroughly enjoyed my first year, even if the first couple of weeks weren't all they were cracked up to be.
- It's okay to not have the time of your life straight away
It's so easy to start university expecting it to immediately be the best thing that has ever happened to you. The pressure to go crazy during Fresher's Week, bond with your flatmates and settle in is pretty overwhelming, and yet we're told that it's going to be amazing. So, if you don't find that you're having an absolute whale of a time 24/7, it's can make you feel like you're failing at student life. Although there is a great deal of fun stuff going on when you first arrive at uni, you're juggling with trying to get to grips with a huge life change... you're most likely moving out of your family home for the first time!
In all honesty, I didn't really enjoy Fresher's Week. The concept of going out and expecting to have a fab time with complete strangers is rather odd. Yes, you may have been friends with them on Facebook all summer, but they're still strangers. And it can be quite scary to drink a lot and become vulnerable with people you hardly know. I thought that Fresher's Week was going to be one of the best times of my life, that the nights out would be incredible, and that I'd feel comfortable instantly with my flatmates... but the reality of it was that it was very difficult. I'd only just met these people, and I was homesick! Although students-to-be are told time and time again that they're going to have an amazing time, nobody tells you that it's okay to be homesick and overwhelmed.
I felt like I was failing at Fresher's Week by feeling overwhelmed by the huge life and environment change, and I struggled to be apart from my mom. But I'd just moved to a different city that I didn't know at all, away from my parents for the first time, it's completely natural to feel homesick! And it's okay, it's normal. In no way did it mean that I was a failure. Amazing times will come, but they might happen a few weeks down the line when you've settled in and started to make proper friends. I'm looking forward to going out in Fresher's Week this year (in my second year), because I know the city well now and have an established group of lovely friends - so if Fresher's Week isn't all you dreamed of, don't worry, good times and great nights out will come.
- Look out for your flatmates and don't be a burden to them
As I said, Fresher's Week is an odd concept because you're going out with and putting your trust in strangers. When me and my friends from home would go out before university, we'd look out for each other and make sure that nobody was on their own or being harassed. So it was weird not having that security during the first nights out at uni. Look out for your flatmates and try to stick together - helping a drunken flatmate my be the start of a brilliant friendship! And ultimately, it's just a kind thing to do. During my Fresher's Week, one of my flatmates was rather smashed and was refused entry to a club. She ran across the road alone out of frustration and confusion, away from the crowds of students. I felt obligated to follow her and make sure she was okay and wasn't going to be wondering the streets alone. We queued again and eventually were let in, and although it was a bit annoying at the time, I couldn't have left her. Plus, it made us closer immediately as she appreciated that I stuck with her. It was something that we brought up lightheartedly and fondly all year.
And if you're someone who really lets lose on a night out and is used to having your friends from home drag you away from the dance floor and deposit you into a taxi... it may be best if you try to reign it in ever so slightly during the first couple of weeks. By all means, have a great time and plenty of booze, but you don't want to be a burden for your flatmates. It's no fun to babysit a smashed stranger all night, and it most likely won't help with your quest to bond with your new pals.
- Make the most of university events
During the first couple of weeks of uni, there will be all sorts of free events on offer to you. My university provided open bus tours of the city, film nights, afternoon teas, markets and all sorts of quirky affairs. I was keen to check them out, but as my flatmates weren't so keen, I ended up not going. I wish I had gone because I could have made more friends and settled in quicker. It can be very intimidating to go to events alone, but there's nothing shameful or embarrassing about it. There will be other students who have gone alone, and everyone will appreciate a smiley face and a simple hello. Remember that it's all new and scary to every fresher... you're all in the same boat. If you want to go to an event, don't miss out, just go! You haven't got anything to lose.
I hope this was helpful, and I hope I haven't put anyone off! I thought it was important to be honest and highlight that as well as being jam packed with fun events, the first couple of weeks at university can be hard. You're trying to juggle so much. I think that if someone had made that clear to me this time last year, I would have found it easier to cope with my feelings and wouldn't have felt like a failure. I adore university now, but it did take a few weeks for me to settle in.