When I first boarded a plane to the UK, I was worried about Freshers’ Week. I had heard a lot about university drinking culture, to the point where my parents even joked that they hadn’t taught me how to drink. Peer pressure was a big concern when I thought about making friends and attending Freshers events.
People talked a lot about drinking and going clubbing which intensified my anxiety, especially since I was more on the introverted side. I had drank alcohol before in small amounts, but I never really enjoyed the taste of it. Clubbing also didn’t really appeal to me, though I was completely fine and happy with people having a good time at clubs.
My Freshers’ Week Experience
To be completely honest, moving to university for the first time filled me with a strange mix of excitement, terror and palpable homesickness. The thought of meeting drunk strangers worried me and to top it all off, I arrived in the UK feeling ill with a sore throat and a cough. That made starting Freshers’ Week feel like I was diving into the belly of the beast.
In the end however, my Freshers’ Week ended up being quite relaxed and enjoyable. Though I didn’t go to any of the club nights, there were many non-drinking events that were available to me. My college (Alcuin College) organised several free lunches with drinks, pastries and other snacks in the junior common room. They also put on a board game night, a film screening and a bingo night and many more events which offered opportunities to meet new people.
Exploring the Freshers’ Week Fair
There was also the campus-wide Freshers’ Fair, where you could explore all the clubs, societies, sports teams and volunteering projects that the student union has to offer. You can sign up to the mailing lists of these student groups, so you don’t have to worry about committing straight away if you’re undecided on which to join. Most student groups hold relaxed introductory sessions that you can attend to see which ones catch your interest before becoming an actual member. Free pizza was also given out during Freshers’ Fair!
I also went to a coffee afternoon organised by the International Students’ Association, where we played several board games and shared snacks. It was a nice way of meeting other international students in a chilled atmosphere.
Individual academic departments might organise their own Freshers events as well. The English Department arranged an afternoon tea at Grays Court for international freshers. It was comforting and reassuring meeting members of staff and fellow international students in a relaxed setting (coupled with some delicious buttery scones and hot tea).
Find new friends at university societies
There’s no time limit or deadline to making friends at university. There are countless opportunities to find friends that you have a lot in common with. By signing up for societies like the Malaysian Society and joining volunteering projects like Theatre in Schools, I’ve gotten to know people who I’m still friends with today. Once classes officially start, you’ll also be able to meet people in-between lectures, and during seminars and workshops. This was where I met my closest university friends.
Peer pressure and making new friends are some of the biggest concerns during Freshers’ Week, especially if you’re moving to a new city or country. It’s important to remember not to worry if you’ve not immediately clicked with anyone during the week. While some people do find good friends among their flatmates or people they met during Freshers’ Week, it’s not the end of the world if you don’t find anyone straight away.
Reflections and Advice
Looking back, overall my Freshers’ Week experience was lovely, even if it wasn’t full of clubbing or drinking. Everyone, from other freshers I met to the STYCs (Second and Third Year Contacts, older students who help you move in and start university life) in charge of my flat, was incredibly understanding about me preferring to go for more relaxed activities.
With regards to peer pressure during Freshers’ Week, don’t feel like you need to force yourself to do anything that you’re not entirely comfortable with. While university is indeed the place to reinvent yourself and try new things, you should still know your boundaries and know when to say no to things. Of course you should step out of your comfort zone, but at the same time do what’s best for you and don’t do things you really don’t want to!
Going to university for the first time can be an incredibly overwhelming experience. However, among the stress of moving into your home away from home and immersing yourself in a brand new environment, you should try to enjoy yourself during Freshers’ Week and make the most of the new experience. Whether you’re a home student or an international student, Freshers’ Week isn’t the be all and end all of your university experience, it’s just the wonderful beginning of it. So just have fun and take care of yourself!