Freshers’ week – also called welcome week – is one of the highlights of the university calendar. It’s an immensely busy time, filled with new faces, important admin, and copious amounts of alcohol. Follow our guide to both survive and thrive during freshers’ week, and come out feeling confident and excited about the year ahead at university!

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Get the admin under control

First things first, try and get a copy of the events schedule for freshers’ week when you arrive, so you can plan ahead. You’ll probably have a few meetings to attend, such as welcome talks with your department and induction sessions with the library and sports facilities. Though these may sound a little boring, they’ll be super helpful in the long run. 

Check where your teaching spaces are, and locate your nearest supermarket, pharmacy, and other important shops. Some universities set a deadline by which you have to register with a new local GP, but even if yours doesn’t, register anyway! Especially in a year like this one, it’s important to know your health will be taken care of when you need it.

“So, what kind of things are you into?”

You’ve probably never been around so many new people from so many different places as during freshers’ week. Make sure to bring a doorstop, so your new neighbours feel comfortable popping their heads in and saying hello. Invite them in for a chat and a cuppa if you really want to win them over!

As well as hopefully bonding with the friends living around you, you’ll meet people on your course, older students, and countless others. Be prepared for a lot of Facebook adds, and having the same awkward opener conversation over and over. Also, make sure to choose a fun fact about yourself in advance for any classic freshers’ week icebreakers and get-to-know-you games.

It’s obviously great to be friendly to everyone you meet at university. However, lots of people feel pressure to become an immediate BNOC (big name on campus). Don’t give in to the panic! Everyone showing off their fun on social media is just as confused and nervous as you. You don’t need to make your best friends for life on day one – there’s lots of time to find your tribe.

Explore the freshers’ fair

The freshers’ fair generally happens over a couple of days during freshers’ week. It’ll give you the chance to learn about every society and extra-curricular activity on offer at your university. You can speak to student reps at each stall, and sign up for mailing lists so that you don’t miss upcoming events.

Extra-curricular activities are a great way to round out your CV when it comes to the job hunt. More importantly though, you’ll meet lots of new like-minded people and get some crucial chill time amidst the chaos of the uni term. Are you considering playing a new sport, getting involved in performing arts, joining a religious society, or something more niche? Whatever it is, we recommend throwing yourself into the fun and trying everything at least once!

Another thing to note about the freshers’ fair is that almost every brand and company will have special deals and rates for students. You’ll receive a ton of freebies, coupons and discount codes, so keep them safe and use them to save money later on. When out shopping, remember to ask if the shop you’re in gives student discounts. An NUS card or university ID can get you 10% off in most places (which almost makes the degree worth it).

Freshers’ week nightlife

When you picture yourself during freshers’ week, it’s probably dancing in a club surrounded by lots of sweaty fellow students. This year, universities are optimistic that students won’t need to miss out on the nightlife scene. However, it’s important to stay as smart and as safe as possible. As well as being COVID-aware, remember not to drink on an empty stomach. Keep an eye on your belongings (especially your drink), and don’t venture off alone in unfamiliar areas. If you do end up going a bit too hard, make sure to get some fluids and carbs in you the next morning. Exercising will be the last thing you’ll feel like doing, but sweating the alcohol out is an amazing hangover cure. If that sounds too ambitious, at least leave home for a walk to get some fresh air. 

The freshers’ week hype can make people who aren’t so crazy about clubbing feel a bit alienated. However, this doesn’t need to be the case. There are always a mix of different events on offer, especially in the wake of the pandemic. Night markets, movie marathons and yoga classes are more chilled alternatives that are really fun. While social events are planned for every moment of the week, don’t feel pressured to attend them all. Freshers’ week can be draining, and it’s important to acknowledge when you need some downtime.

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Help and support

Adjusting to university life is hard. It might seem that you’re the only one who feels anxious or homesick, but this is really the opposite of the truth. All universities will have dedicated and friendly welcome teams of older students there to guide you. Don’t be afraid to speak to them if you feel a little lost. They can listen without judgement, suggest events that you might enjoy, and direct you to the right services if you need further support.

Remember to eat well and keep yourself fuelled during freshers’ week to avoid illness or burnout. Try to avoid the dreaded freshers’ flu by taking plenty of vitamins. If you do think you’ve caught it, give yourself a day or two to recuperate before hitting the town again. If you think you’ve contracted anything more serious, don’t hesitate to contact a health professional or your uni’s pastoral care.

Click here to read our top tips for international students

What happens if freshers’ week goes virtual?

Large events are all dependent on the changing COVID-19 situation. Lots of unis have already moved faffy admin tasks online in response to the pandemic – a silver lining to this whole mess! However, they are reluctant to cancel the in-person freshers’ fair or other social activities. 

If something drastic changes and you do end up having to navigate freshers’ week through your laptop, try to keep an open mind. Although it’s not ideal to be meeting people and finding out about clubs and societies online, it’s definitely possible. Some unis have even organised virtual DJ sets, quiz nights and escape rooms. Hopefully you’ll have lovely flatmates and neighbours to bubble with, and if not, you can find people online who are in the same boat.

If your liver and your wallet are both a bit worse for wear when freshers’ week is over, don’t worry. As we said above, it’s great to try and make the most of the week, but remember that it won’t define your uni experience. Once teaching starts, things will calm down, and you’ll fall into more of a routine.