Whichever uni you end up at, when you arrive on campus for the first time, you’ll probably feel a bit like you did on your first day at primary school – nervous about the work and teachers (re-branded as tutors this time), excited about meeting new friends, and eager to check out your new surroundings (a whole room this time, and not just a coat peg). You might be a bit keener to say goodbye to the parents this time, and probably won’t hang on to their trouser legs as they try to edge towards the door, but don’t be surprised if you suddenly feel a tiny bit panicked on the first day … I cried. It’s natural that you might have mixed feelings when you actually face independence for the first time.
But your first day at uni will be so busy that you won’t have much time to stay pondering – you’ll be unpacking, organising, learning endless names, forgetting them, getting lost, being found, accepting Facebook friends, swapping numbers, meeting neighbours, eating, drinking and generally rushing around. Freshers’ week is a time when you’ll smile, laugh, drink, dance, cry and forget hundreds of names. At times you might wish you were somewhere else, at other times you’ll wish the week could go on forever. You’ll have hours when you love uni, and hours when you hate it – and sometimes you’ll feel all these feelings at the same time. That’s normal. It’s stressful to move to a new place, start a new course, meet hundreds of new people, sift through those people to find friends, arrange a new room, cook and eat new foods, explore a new town, organise new funding, impress new tutors, and go from being top banana in the highest year of school to bottom of the pack as a fresher at university – all within one very busy week.
Arriving at uni: what to expect on day one
When you arrive at university for the first time, with all your stuff, head for your halls of residence or wherever you’re living. If you’re living in halls, there will probably be a stand set up to welcome you and your family and tell you where to go. If you’re living in private accommodation, remember to arrange when and where you will pick up the key before you set off from home.
Some unis arrange Facebook groups and Twitter updates giving freshers the latest info – if yours does, be sure to join or follow these before setting off.
Once you’ve arrived in your room (or ‘digs’, as old people like your parents will probably insist on calling your uni room), it’s a good idea to start unpacking as soon as possible. Ask any friends or family who have come with you to help you to unpack before they go, because once your room starts looking nice and homely, you’ll feel much happier about settling in. Don’t worry about unpacking every little thing (it can be nice to have something left to do when your family leave) but unpack your duvet, make your bed, put up some posters, unload your computer and get out some photos so that your room starts to look like it’s your own space.
If you’re living in a shared flat or house rather than a single room in a hall of residence, spend a few hours getting to know your new housemates early on. Even if you’re more into cleaning than Monica from Friends, don’t start talking about kitchen cleaning rotas until you’ve been there for at least a few days – just get to know each other and find things you have in common first. Once you’re friends (or at least friendly), sorting out the tough stuff like who’s scrubbing the toilet next Wednesday will be easier to organise. (If you’re lucky, your hall fee might include the services of a cleaner to do it all for you.)
If you do find yourself feeling homesick, or upset, or stressed, try to relax and then you’ll soon start having fun again. One night during my freshers’ week, I’d planned to meet a group of coursemates but couldn’t remember where we’d arranged to meet and we hadn’t yet swapped phone numbers – university suddenly felt like a huge place. But the thing about freshers’ week is that students and staff will be extra friendly and willing to help out, and give you directions, or dole out advice. So relax, and prepare for a fantastic beginning to your university career.
For details of Lucy Tobin’s A Guide to Uni Life (9781844552160).
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