Making the most of freshers' week
Freshers' week is your chance to have fun while settling into an unfamiliar environment, meeting new people and learning about student life
Your first few days as a student will be exciting and nerve-wracking. 'Going to university can feel overwhelming,' says Bob Cozens, director of admissions at the University of Bedfordshire. 'Quite often you've left family and friends to live in a strange town or city and it may feel like you are on your own.
Freshers' week is the perfect opportunity for you to explore your university and find out what's on offer before you start your course
'But freshers' week is the perfect opportunity for you to explore your university and find out what's on offer before you start your course.' His key advice is to ensure that you have an open mind and a desire to try new things.
You can expect the week to be incredibly busy, with a mix of social events to attend and important administrative tasks to complete. Keeping on top of it all is important, so have a diary on you at all times or use the calendar on your phone to stay organised.
One event not to miss is the freshers' fair. As well as being a chance to grab plenty of freebies - from USB sticks and pens, to food and vouchers - this is also the place to sign up to whichever societies, clubs and sports teams you want to get involved in.
As you browse the stalls at the fair, you'll realise there are hundreds to choose from. Bob explains, 'There really is something for everyone. At Bedfordshire, we have a huge range of clubs, from our Musical Theatre to Historia Normannis, a group of students who are passionate about re-enactment and travel the country to display their skills with medieval weaponry.'
You could decide to continue with a hobby you already pursue, or try something completely different. There's no pressure - signing up during freshers' week doesn't commit you for the whole year, and it's a fantastic way to make friends. Find out more about the benefits of joining clubs and societies.
Other events are worth a look too. For example, Bob says, 'We have themed days in freshers' week, including an employability day during which employers are present to help students find part-time work.'
For many new students, freshers' week is all about nights out, pub crawls and taking advantage of cheap drink offers. Whatever your taste in music, you'll be able to find a club night to match your tastes and, with many students living away from home for the first time, there's nothing to stop you enjoying yourself.
Just remember to take basic precautions. For instance, make sure your friends have your phone number in case you are separated in a club, don't leave your drink unattended, know your own limits when it comes to alcohol, and be careful to use only licensed taxis.
It's also a good idea to take a break; don't try to go out every night. There's nothing wrong with spending some time in your room catching up on sleep, finishing unpacking your stuff or relaxing in front of the TV with your flatmates. You'll have more fun the following night if you've recharged your batteries.
Meanwhile, if drinking until the early hours isn't your thing, don't worry. More people than you expect will feel the same way, and there are lots of events to suit all interests. Browse your university's freshers' week programme for details.
While there will probably be a number of meetings scheduled during freshers' week (such as welcome talks at your department, the library and your halls of residence) the most important is registration.
We are introducing puppy rooms for freshers to help eliminate anxiety and homesickness
Usually taking place in a sports hall or other large building, this is where you confirm your attendance at university. You will be given a list in advance of which documents to take with you, and you may also be required to provide a passport photo for your student ID card. Be prepared to stand in a queue for a couple of hours before it's your turn.
Registration is often when you're provided with important information such as your university email address and computer account login details. You may also be required to choose modules for your first term.
Other practical things that you should try to get done during freshers' week include opening a student bank account (if you haven't already), and registering with a local GP and dentist.
Looking after your health is especially important when you first move away from home. You're almost certain to be hit with 'freshers' flu' - a bad cold students often get due to a combination of being around lots of new people, not getting enough sleep and possibly drinking too much alcohol.
In addition, make time during the week to have a look around the university campus, your department, the library and the area where you live. Find out where your local food shops and the nearest cash machine are.
Help and support
Some students sail through freshers' week, while others understandably find it more difficult to adjust to university life. But help is available if you need it.
'Universities are really keen to help you settle in,' says Bob. He adds, 'If you're worried about anything, most universities will have ambassadors around during freshers' week to help you. We call ours Freshers' Angels and you can ask them anything, they're there to help.'
Some universities will go the extra mile to make you feel better. 'This year as part of our welcome to new students, we are introducing puppy rooms for freshers to help eliminate anxiety and homesickness,' says Bob.
Feeling homesick during this period is not unusual. 'Remember that you are not alone,' advises Bob. 'There are hundreds of people around you who are in the same boat, so don't be afraid to reach out and get involved.' Find out more about what to do when you feel homesick.
It can also be stressful if you don't immediately get on with your flatmates, or you feel like everyone else is making friends more easily. There's really no need to panic, though. While freshers' week can be great fun, it's different to every other week you'll experience at university. If it didn't go quite as you hoped, you still have plenty of time to meet new people.