Hello, I’m Angharad, and I’m a first year undergraduate studying Biology. I’m also autistic! For me, this means I can find socialising difficult and draining, find change to environment and schedule difficult, and struggle with sensory things such as bright lights and loud noises.
Expectations vs reality
I was extremely apprehensive and nervous coming to University, particularly about the overwhelming nature of Freshers’ week. The combination of a major change in schedule, working out a new city, meeting new people, and not knowing what to expect seemed impossibly daunting. The tales of clubbing hijinks, awkward icebreakers, and lack of sleep did not reassure me!
However, upon arriving at York I was amazed at how there were Freshers’ events tailored to people like me. Quiz and movie nights, pottery painting, and dog petting were included on the timetable. I found myself actually enjoying the social activities -shock horror!
My Freshers’ week timetable
If, like I was, you’re an autistic prospective student worried about Freshers’ week, I’ve included a picture of my Freshers’ week timetable to show the range of activities and maybe give an idea of what to expect. Yours might look slightly different depending on your college. But, from my experience, most colleges had similar non-clubbing events that may be more appealing to autistic students!
My Freshers’ week began with unpacking, saying goodbye to family, going to orientation, and then to a quiz night. While I had to force myself to go to the first few events, and was very anxious navigating to said events, it got easier as the week went on. Over time, I got more comfortable talking to people. I really recommend putting on a comfort TV show to decompress!
On my second day of Freshers’ week, I had to navigate the buses to Campus West. I’m from London, so public transport at home is a lot of sensory overload, but I really like York buses! I had a Step Ahead welcome coffee event which was really great, it gave me lots of useful information. I highly recommend attending Step Ahead online or in person if you get the chance! In the afternoon, I walked around Campus West and watched the ducks for a bit to recover from all the socialising.
On Tuesday I had a very relaxed day as I was quite exhausted from Monday. I made myself some comfort meals and then went to the comedy night. If you have the opportunity to go to a comedy night, I highly recommend it!
On Wednesday I had a biology welcome meeting, which made me really excited for my course. I wandered around campus, and found Long Boi!
I had my academic supervisor meeting, which I was very nervous. But it was actually very useful, as I discussed getting a Student Support Plan with Disability Services, which I highly recommend doing. I then had a lecture, explored the library (and made a very long list of all the Biology books I wanted to take out). I rounded the day off with a Devil Wears Prada movie night.
I had a genetics lecture which was really interesting, and then saw some llamas in the pouring rain!
The finale to Fresher’s week was the long-awaited Fresher’s Fair! This was by far the event I was most nervous for due to the crowds, but I was also very excited to explore societies. We had an access hour, where there were fewer people and music wasn’t played – this was brilliant as it was a lot less overwhelming.
I highly recommend going to the access hour if you think you’d benefit from that, even if it does mean waking up a bit earlier!
So that was my fresher’s week!
My Fresher’s week likely looked very different to many non-autistic or extroverted students! I didn’t go clubbing, but instead went on lots of walks, watched a lot of my comfort TV shows, and went to social events in small doses. Even so, I was still suitably exhausted by the end!
I hope this is reassuring to any prospective autistic students; you can shape your fresher’s week into one that suits you.