Heyyyy there everyone! I hope you are all having a wonderful weekend. The lovely weather I was experiencing down in the south of England was, as my college friends predicted, not something I’d continue to enjoy up in the north. Yesterday morning was delightfully brisk at 3 degrees celsius, and right now I’m staring out the window at an utterly grey sky with never-ending icy drizzle. I was told to expect it but now that it’s here …. I won’t lie, it’s taking me some time to adjust to this new (colder) atmosphere.
Right now that small talk about the weather is out of the way … I’m officially at university now and have just finished my Freshers/Induction week! WOOOHOOO!! My tertiary education is officially on its way, and soon I will embark on what I’ve been told will be the busiest 3-4 years of my entire life. I’m still not sure whether that should make me anxious or excited. Perhaps both?
So Freshers’ and Induction week is meant to be your introductory time into university. It’s the welcome stage, the chance to meet everyone, get excited about the year to come and learn all the relevant and exciting details about where you’re staying, what you’re studying, and all the exciting things in between that aren’t necessarily part of your academic experience. However, COVID-19 being the delightful thing that it was meant that the traditional on-campus freshers’ experience was as far from normal as you could get … today I’m going to be chatting about my freshers’ experience, what it’s been like doing it during this pandemic and a few tips for still making the most of your start of university despite the restrictions that are in place.
Moving into the flat
We weren’t told who we would be sharing a flat with before arrival, so when I climbed out of the taxi at my college, struggling not to fall over under the weight of all my luggage, the anticipation had built itself up to a veritable tremor. I was told my room and flat number and made a silent prayer as I was about to meet the people I’d be living with for the next year. Oh boy …
Thankfully, everyone in my flat is so lovely and friendly, so stressing about sharing with potential psychopaths who would steal my cereal and kill my plants (not that I have any yet) was all for nothing. Although I feel like stressing about your potential flatmates is a right of passage in a way. My flat is mixed, so that means four guys and four girls and we all get along great! My boyfriend has been teasing me for staying up late chatting to them because usually, I’ll be fast asleep by 10pm but this past week … let’s just say I’ve been falling asleep in the am rather than the pm (don’t worry mom and dad I will be back to my good ways next week because I don’t want to be cranky or sleep-deprived for my lectures).
Moving in itself was a bit overwhelming, what with unpacking all of my stuff and trying to get my room and kitchen shelves organised, but even without a parent around to help you, it can all be pretty stress-free if you just ride the wave of excitement that comes with moving into university! My tips for moving in, especially during a pandemic, I’d say would be:
#1 Unpack your room one step at a time. If you try to start unpacking everything all at once, it’s bound to get chaotic and overwhelming. Rather start with your bedding, then place suitcases or boxes one at a time on your bed and slowly work through it.
#2 Get creative with storage. Student accommodation is notoriously cramped so to avoid feeling like you’re living in a dollhouse, try to sort out some innovative storage solutions (boxes under the bed, little storage baskets for clothes in your cupboard, extra hooks for coats). You’ll feel like you have all the space in the world, even though that’s far from the truth.
#Leave your door open and smile. This may sound like a line, but I swear it’s true – you’re not the only one feeling nervous. Everyone else is too! And the best way to connect with your flatmates (or anyone) and help get settled is to just make the first move and be friendly. On the first day, try leaving your door open so that people can pop into your room. Smile at your new flatmates, say hi and introduce yourself. These are the people you’re going to be living with, so starting on a friendly note can only be a good thing (plus it will be an excellent way to start making friends).
Freshers Events and Activities
I know that traditionally there would be events arranged for the new incoming undergrads every day of freshers’ week. These include things like bar crawls, nights out, movie nights, bake-offs, pub quizzes and all sorts of fun activities no matter what your interests where you can socialise with people and start making friends within your community. Sadly, those sorts of things aren’t exactly possible in the current climate.
Even though it was really disappointing missing out on the usual fun that freshers’ week is destined to be, our college has a genuinely amazing JCR team. (Junior Common Room – who manage and arrange all sorts of college activities/events and just provide a way for students to connect with one another outside of academia and have a positive, supportive college environment). Despite the restrictions in place (including a 72-hour college lockdown where we couldn’t socialise with other households and had to essentially stay in our flats for three days, no venturing into the city), they still managed to put on a very fun and enjoyable freshers’ week.
We had an online pub quiz, a household escape room/murder mystery night, an arts and craft evening, bingo, a really excellent welcome meal (since we are a gowned college I got to wear my college gown, and literally it’s the closest I think I’ll ever come to being a Hogwarts student), a bake-off and a virtual sleepover. Sure, it’s not the same doing things in zoom versus in-person, but given the situation, I truly think it was so much fun. My tips for this would be:
#1 Try everything! There’s nothing wrong with wanting a quiet night in, watching a movie by yourself. I’m sure I’ll be craving that in a week or two. But Freshers’ week is not the time for that – sorry. Now is the perfect time to meet new people, maybe find friends who share interests with you, and the only way you’re going to be able to do that is if you take part in the events (which are fun!! Especially if you come with the right attitude).
#2 Don’t let nerves get in your way. Nerves are understandable because university is a big, new step and having so many new people you don’t know around you can be incredibly overwhelming. However, try as best you can not to let that stop you from having fun. Like I said, everyone else is probably feeling nervous too, so you’re all in the same boat. If you’ve never done one of the activities, try it out and who knows what could happen. Reach out and introduce yourself because you may be introducing yourself to your future BFF, but you won’t know until you just take a deep breath … and GO FOR IT!!
#3 It’s okay to say no. BE YOU! Okay so I’m going to broach this topic because that’s the person I am but hear me now – you don’t have to drink and party every night to make friends or have a fun freshers’ week! If that’s something that you want to do or enjoy, then, by all means, go for it, but if you’re not that type of person and prefer nights in, then it’s okay. I guarantee there will be people like that around you, so you don’t have to worry that you’ll be all alone with no friends if you don’t want to go clubbing. If that activity isn’t your thing, say no, and I’m sure there’ll be another activity that is more your vibe. Also, don’t be afraid to be yourself with your flatmates. You’re going to be stuck together for an entire year, so if you are upfront about the person you are from the start, then I know you’ll have a much greater living experience.
Welcome to your department & Online Learning
Travel halfway around the world to do lectures in your room … yeah I know that’s not ideal, but the way I’ve been thinking about it is it’s far more fun and exciting to be here doing that instead of at home because at least I can still participate in college events and meet people face-to-face.
During the first week, you’ll probably have lots of induction sessions for your department to introduce you to your different subjects/modules, who your lecturers will be, what the expectations are and to sort out various things like reading lists. Now an online learning experience is so different (and I mean different like DIFFERENT) to normal, but the key is to just approach it with a good attitude because that’s how things have to be right now. Sure, having a good internet connection is critical, and it’s not exactly helpful when the wifi drops and students start scrambling through the quad to try and find enough signal to get back into their session … but oh well that’s part of the experience right? For this, I’d highly recommend:
#1 Know when all your sessions are!! You might think this is a silly point to bring up, but sometimes there are emails changing the times that you might miss, or you might plan a shopping trip/afternoon out when you should be plugging in your laptop for a zoom. MAKE A NOTE OF WHEN ALL YOUR SESSIONS ARE!! That way, you can plan the rest of your life around them and can see them coming in advance (so you know not to stay out until 3am if you have a 9am zoom with your department).
#2 Don’t skip your sessions, even if they are recorded. One of the critical skills we’ll all have to work on with online learning is that self-discipline to get up and get ready for a 9am lecture even if it is recorded and you can watch it later. Start the habit now. Don’t skip your sessions for anything even if you don’t have to be present, because it’s not a great way to start the term. Be there for everything so that if you need to ask a question you can, or you might learn something that you wouldn’t have if you’d skipped it. Not to sound like a teacher (although I am doing education), but start off the term on a good, organised note so that you can use that momentum and carry it forward throughout the term (it will only be a good thing for you in the long run).
#3 Ask questions to clear up any confusion from the get-go. This is coming from someone who is incredibly shy … don’t be scared to ask your lecturers/module conveners questions! They are not unapproachable (well at least mine aren’t) and they understand that this is a new and overwhelming time so they won’t be upset if you ask a question. If there is anything that is confusing you, ASK NOW! You don’t want to still be confused in a week’s time and be struggling because you were too scared to ask.
#4 Engage with it! This is your department, your degree! Probably the big reason why you are at university in the first place. So don’t let that hold you back. This is your chance to start diving into the subject you’ve chosen to study for the next three/four years, so be like Nike and Just Do It! Get in there, ask questions, chat to people and engage with it (that’s how I met some truly amazing people doing the same programme as me).
How to sign up for everything when you know nothing (aka the Freshers’ Fair).
I know the freshers’ fair traditionally is meant to be a big event where you can walk around and explore all the possible clubs, sports and societies you can join, meet new people and apparently get lots of free stuff that you’ll probably never use. This year, we had an online freshers’ fair, so of course, it wasn’t the same as walking around a buzzing area filled with people you can speak to and ask questions, or just pick up a pamphlet as you walk past. Because we had to join a zoom to ask any questions we had, that sort of intimidated me so I didn’t ask as many questions as I would have if the fair had been in-person, but it was still amazing to check out all that the university had to offer.
My college was still able to do an in-person freshers’ fair for our college clubs and societies (with all the health, safety and social distancing of course) and that was really fun to walk around and see what we could all join. The best tip I can offer you here would just be:
#1 When in doubt, SAY YES!! During our college welcome meal, a quote was said that truly struck me. I love it so much I’m tempted to turn it into a poster for my room – “Don’t let your degree get in the way of your education”. Essentially, just because we are here to do something academic (and that is still a priority), you shouldn’t let that get in the way of experiencing the rest of what university has to offer like the extracurriculars and social opportunities. Try anything and everything that interests you, even if you’ve never done it before. You don’t have to commit to it for a lifetime, but you won’t know if it’s something you could enjoy unless you try it out (man it seems like I’m saying that a lot … sorry). Join societies that link to hobbies or things you love (for instance, I’m super excited to join the Harry Potter Society) because it’s a chance to make friends not just with people in your living community and degree but people who have similar interests to you. Plus it’s a great way to clear your head and get away from all the academic stress, which I know we all need from time to time.
Okay, now I am going to be completely honest with you – socialising given the current climate has been quite difficult. Because things can’t operate how they usually would, that really limits the number of opportunities to meet new people and make friends. However, the additional restrictions (like not being able to be in groups larger than 6, the 72-hour lockdown and limits on activities or ways to meet up with people in other colleges or even households) has made it incredibly difficult to socialise.
That being said, it’s not like I’ve had to sit by myself in my room and haven’t made any friends. I’ve been able to socialise with my household (and they are all lovely), and I’ve been able to meet up and connect with a few other people both with similar interests and who are entirely different, so I wouldn’t say there’s been no chance to socialise, but for you … the tips I have are:
#1 Rules and safety first. Okay yes, this one is frustrating, but it’s important to remember that the restrictions are in place for our health and safety and so that we can all try and protect ourselves and the community at large so even though you may really want to socialise with people, think about health and safety first. There will be plenty of time to meet and make friends, but you don’t want to ruin your first few weeks of uni just because you didn’t follow the rules.
#2 Make use of the opportunities you’re given. The chances to socialise may be a lot less, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any at all, so be sure to use the opportunities you get. Take the time to get to know your flatmates, or make plans with one or two people at a time. There won’t be no chance to meet people and make friends, so if you get the chance, go for it!
#3 Try to stay optimistic. These are really challenging times, and no one really knows what’s going on, but we are all in this together (cue the high school musical soundtrack). Even though it really does suck to be starting university this way and not in the usual way, try to make the best of it and stay optimistic because this can’t last forever. Soon we’ll be able to have the freedom to socialise and make friends as much as we want. We just need to hang in there.
Oh, my word that was a long post. I expected it to be a bit lengthy but not that long so for those of you who’ve made it all the way to the end, I salute you and thank you so much!! I truly hope you enjoyed reading today’s post, both my first week’s experiences and the tips for how to make the best of things (these tips can be applied not just to your freshers’ week but to your first few weeks of university as well so please don’t think that you can’t use them for that too). Yes, university is new and scary and a little overwhelming, but it’s also been so exciting and incredible just in this first week, so I can’t see what the rest of the term has in store for us. Before I sign off, I just want to say a massive shout-out to the John Snow JCR (Jack, Steph, Katie, and all the incredible officers and Freps who made this such a memorable start to university life for me), my new flatmates for being a great bunch of people to live with, my family back home for all the love and support and especially to my boyfriend who still manages to help and support me in so many ways from 8500 miles away so THANK YOU, EVERYONE!!!
Right, enough of my ramblings now. How was everyone else’s first week of university? If you’ve just started and had an online freshers’ week like me, what was your experience like? Or if you’re no longer a first-year, what was your favourite experience at the start of your university career? Lastly, does anyone have any tips that I may have left out?
Please share, and I look forward to reading your responses in the comments section!! (I’m sorry I’ve been a bit slow at responding to comments and blog-networking things have just been quite hectic at the moment, but I will catch up soon. Also, can I ask people to please resend any contact forms about collabs/guest posts because for some reason I can’t access them). Thanks so much for reading everyone and I’ll see you all soon!
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Lots of love
Blondey on a Mission xxx