Hi! I’m Amelia (she/her) and I’m a first year French and German student, living in Halifax College. Before university, I was worried about Freshers’ Week. A lot of what you see online is people going out clubbing and drinking, which I knew I didn’t want to do. I’d seen things on the University website from current students in a similar position, who hadn’t had a stereotypical Freshers’ Week. This reassured me, but I still felt that I’d be in a small minority of people. However, I didn’t need to worry – there were so many people who felt the same!
Before arriving at University, I joined the official University Facebook group when it was set up (around April in my case). Although it felt intimidating, I posted a message saying what I was studying and where I would be living, so I could find other people with something in common. A few weeks later, I saw another girl had put a message in the group asking if anyone else didn’t like clubbing and wanted to be in a group chat so we could plan things to do together. This made me feel so much better. Within a few weeks we had a group chat with around 50 people in who were all of a very similar mindset – which was so reassuring. I’d definitely recommend being brave enough to put a message in the group so you can find people who have similar attitudes to you!
The Step Ahead Programme
I also completed the York Experience Summer School (Online) the summer before year 13 (you have to meet the eligibility criteria, but I would recommend applying even if you’re not sure, as there might be something you haven’t thought of!). We also took part in a programme called Step Ahead. I completed this a couple of weeks before moving to University. The programme involved a group of around 100 of us coming to York for two days. We took part in a range of workshops and campus tours. This gave me an opportunity to meet lots of new people, some of whom were like me and also didn’t plan on drinking much. I’m good friends with some of the people I met during the programme!
If you’re eligible, I think this is one of the best things to do before coming to university. You can meet new people who you can then see again during fresher’s week. If you’re not eligible though, don’t worry, as there are other things you can do!
Once at university
I’m in Halifax College, and they organised lots of events which were alcohol-free or alternatives to clubbing. For example, we had an indoor games night, made mocktails and had a karaoke night! I went to some of these with people from my flat, some with people from the group chats, some on my own. This was daunting, but I’m so glad I did it. I met some really lovely people there. It was good to just to sit and chat with people who preferred a calmer night rather than feeling like I had to go out.
I’ve been really fortunate with my flatmates as well. Some of them go out quite a lot and enjoy drinking, whereas a couple of others are more like me and enjoy socialising, but not drinking and clubbing. However, those who do go out haven’t made me feel at all pressured into going with them or drinking – I get on with them all really well!
Another thing that really helped me was Freshers’ Fair and societies. Freshers’ Fair is an opportunity to look around all the societies and talk to their members. This is definitely something to make the most of! I signed up to the mailing lists of many societies. I didn’t end up joining them all, however it was really great to find so many different things. Especially ones that had absolutely no connection to drinking or going out.
In the end, I joined ballroom and Latin dance, and concert orchestra. The people I’ve met through these societies have been so lovely! They’ve made me feel like I’ve been at university for years, not just a few weeks! Although some of the socials may involve drinking or clubbing, there is really no pressure to do anything you don’t want to do!
Overall, I loved Freshers’ Week just as much as those who drank and went clubbing. It was just a different experience! I joined group chats before arriving, got involved with the college non-drinking events and joined societies. This is the one of the best ways to meet people who are like-minded.