By Richard Dyer, SJCR Vice-President
For some people, starting university is an exciting prospect before they even arrive, whereas for others it can take some time. If you’re already excited, great! But don’t worry if you’re feeling a bit apprehensive. At home, the night before Freshers’ Sunday, I felt far more concerned than excited. If someone had come up to me and said that within a week I would feel completely different about starting university I wouldn’t have believed them and would have probably questioned how they had got in to my house.
Don’t feel that you need to start Freshers’ Week with any plans, preparation or preconceptions. The whole week has been organised so that you can take your mind off worrying about what to do and just enjoy it instead. Nevertheless, by nature of the fact you are reading a post entitled “What to expect from your first week at university”, you might actually be wondering what to expect from your first week at university. With that in mind, here’s what to expect from – well, you get the idea.
After settling in to your room, you’ll have an opportunity to chat to the Common Room Executive (Exec), Freshers’ Reps (Freps), your neighbours and other Freshers; explore Durham; unpack and do whatever else you might want to do. I definitely recommend doing all the aforementioned things at some point during the week, but don’t worry about squeezing them all in to the first few hours. Slightly later on we’ll have a few talks, followed by some food. In the evening, there’ll be plenty going on. As always, there’s absolutely no pressure to do anything but there’ll almost certainly be something for you; whether that’s just chatting to others, going to one of Durham’s clubs or staying in with one of the activities we’ll organise within college.
During the day, amongst other things, there will be information and safety presentations, some tours of the college and time to spend doing whatever you want. There’s a good chance your subject may have inductions or talks during the week, so it’s worth looking out for those. There’ll also be a few events that are not to be missed including the Freshers’ SJCR (St John’s Common Room) meeting, Open Mic Night and our annual 5 mile run – don’t worry though, it’s so early in the morning it goes really quickly. Throughout the week there will be lots of Freshers’ Reps, Exec and college staff around to help you navigate the college, take you to your lectures, answer questions and chat.
At some point during the week, it’s likely fancy dress will be involved. Indeed, Durham is known for dressing fancy – in both senses of the word. If you have any fancy dress, bring it along but don’t worry if not. I didn’t have any but there’s a shop in Durham that survives exclusively off Freshers’ week fancy dress and, of course, there’s always the possibility of making your own. For instance, I once found myself having to dress up like an apple. My solution was to expertly clip a sign to my shirt that read “I am an apple”– categorically informing people what you are is a really good trick for a last – minute costume. Of course, fancy dress really might not be your thing, that’s completely fine too.
During the evenings, there will always be events within college running alongside the trips to clubs. Typically, these are more laid-back nights in our common room or around St John’s and are ideal opportunities to socialise and explore the college. Regardless of whether you’re planning to go out or not, it’s definitely worth spending a few nights, if not more, relaxing to rejuvenate after what will undoubtedly be a busy day.
The end of the week will be full of celebrations. You’ll be matriculated in to St John’s and the university; making you an official Durham student. It all sounds very formal but this, for lots of people, is a highlight of being a Fresher – you’ll see why soon. There’ll be a huge meal for everyone and we’ll finish with an even bigger party involving the whole college; giving you an opportunity to meet everyone else in St John’s and experience true college life.
So how should you spend your Freshers’ Week? Maybe do something different, talk to some people, explore the college and Durham but, most importantly, do what makes you feel happy and don’t panic. It’s not as though there is one ‘right way’ to enjoy freshers nor is there a pressing need to make the most of any given activity. There will be plenty more time to try new things, meet new people, go out, stay in and do everything else. Yes, your first week at university is great but so are all the weeks that come after it too.