Fresher’s week is an undeniably important time. It’s the first stepping stone in your journey as a student. Before you discover Kafka and the importance of Kinematics, fresher’s week is about learning how many shots your budget can be stretched to and how to work a washing machine. Having successfully survived fresher’s week myself, here are my top 10 tips to make your first moments easier and more enjoyable.
1. The social network
As well as being brilliant for stalking potential new friends before you arrive, or better still, putting your "brave pants" on and actually chatting to them, Facebook is a great place to find out all the details of your fresher’s events. Especially if you like to plan, social media is a great way to find out exactly what’s happening, so you know whether to pack your octopus costume. Because you don’t want to look silly at the underwater-themed disco.
2. Gold, frankincense and brownies
Fresher’s week is all about making friends and it turns out it’s pretty easy if you greet your new flatmates with homemade brownies or even just custard creams – students aren’t picky. As well as making a friendly first impression, it’s a good excuse to knock on some doors and makes for an easy conversation opener.
3. Home sweet home
Unless you’re lucky enough to live in student accommodation built after asbestos became frowned upon and double-glazing had been invented, first impressions of your room may be that is appears somewhat reminiscent of a prison cell. But don’t worry. You will grow to love the austere concreteness, characteristic of its brutalist architecture. In the meantime, bring something with you to make it feel more homely. Whether it’s bunting, a death metal poster or a photo of your grandma, get something up on those empty walls, so that when you get into bed on your first night, it feels more like home and less like a characterless box.
4. Door stop believing
Bring a doorstop. Particularly important in your first few days, because a hello to a passing flatmate through an open door may well lead to a cup of tea, an awkward chat about the speed of the kettle, a debate about whether the brutalist architecture of your halls is aesthetically pleasing (it isn’t) and the next thing you know you’ll be backpacking round Europe together. So, if you want to go to Prague, bring a doorstop. However, do remember that many doors in university halls are fire doors so always check the policies on holding doors open
5. The alternative
Fresher’s week certainly has a reputation for drinking games and stolen traffic cones. But if sticky nightclub floors and rave paint don’t appeal to you, universities offer plenty of alternatives such as comedy nights, paintballing, cinema trips and pub quizzes and more. Even if you are enjoying the bar crawls and the abundance of cheap drinks that are on offer, I would highly recommend taking a night off. Attend an alternative event or encourage your friends to stay in and have a film night. But most importantly, get at least one early night. You’ve got three years of fun ahead of you; you don’t want to burn out on day four because you’ve got a severe case of FOMO.
6. Keep your flatmates ‘appy
House sharing is one of the best parts of student life, but when no one’s washed up for six weeks and there’s an unidentifiable mouldy carbohydrate living in a pan on the hob, it can wear pretty thin. So it’s really important to start as you mean to go on and make a brilliant first impression of your washing-up abilities. Have a chat as soon as you can about how you’re going to share the cleaning and what food is communal and reach an agreement that everyone’s happy with. One way is using a phone app like OurHouse, which can set up rotas and has a joint shopping list and kitty, to help avoid arguments and awkward conversations and make house sharing fun. Other apps such as Splittable and Wunderlist can also help with this.
7. Food glorious food
For many, fresher’s week is a first foray into a world of supermarkets, recipes and colanders. For some it will be a challenge, and so the idea of a cooking rota may well strike terror in your heart. But don’t chicken out and opt for a life of beans on toast, because in my experience a cooking rota works for everyone. In my flat, some would knock up aubergine parmigiana on a Tuesday night. Others had to be taught how to boil an egg, but finished their third year making dauphinoise potatoes, something I attribute to the cooking rota. As well as being far more economical than cooking for one, a rota saves you from eating the same meal over and over. And what could be finer than coming back from the library (or bar?) to a homemade dinner with your friends?
8. It’s a date
Fresher’s week bombards you with things to do and places to be and unless you write it down, it can all get a bit much: the pub quiz tomorrow night; the trials for the underwater hockey team on Tuesday; the seminar next week where you will be discussing that book you haven’t read yet. My recommended organisational method is Google calendar, which allows you to sync your university timetable with your personal calendar, and easily move events around.
9. Money, money, money
As a student, your wallet is like an onion. When you open it, it makes you cry. To avoid blowing your entire student loan by the Thursday of fresher’s week, work out a budget and stick to it. Set up a student bank account to avoid worrying too much about your overdraft. And check out the competition – some banks offer great deals. Invest in a 16-25 railcard (or your bank may give you one for opening an account) and you’ll save loads of money on train trips. NUS offer great discounts for students, from Topshop to Co-op, depending where your priorities lie.
10. Join up, join up
Make the most of the fresher’s fair. It’s all very well signing up to 34 societies, but make sure you actually try out a few. Otherwise, you’ll spend a year receiving emails from Magic Soc, and still be unable to pull a rabbit from a hat. Societies are brilliant places to make friends, and whether you want to play hockey or sample cheeses, there’s one out there for everyone.
My most important tip for surviving fresher’s week: remember, that you are not alone and that you will find your place. Whether its buying each other shots from your ever-dwindling bank accounts, learning how to play extreme frisbee together or helping each other work out how to use a washing machine (turns out it isn't mysteriously piped into the back of the machine), just enjoy fresher’s week and the rest will fall into place. I promise!
Holly Brandon is a recent graduate from the University of York