Starting university was definitely daunting for me, it’s not often you are put in a new environment where you don’t know anyone. However, freshers’ week puts you in the right headspace, allows you to meet new friends and gets you fully immersed in university and college life. By the end of the first few weeks, you will be calling Durham your second home.
So firstly, freshers’ week. This is the week just before lectures start and where you get to meet your college, flatmates and academic cohort. It is designed to put you ease and to have fun. Although easier said than done, everyone is in the same boat. Everyone wants to make friends, and nobody wants to miss out on anything. This creates the best environment to make friends because everyone is super friendly and keen to socialise.
Your college and JCR, Junior Common Room, will put on freshers’ events almost every night in the first week. I remember that I had movie nights, neon events, Kings and Queens evening and a meal out at Fat Hippo. Looking back at my pictures from this week is so nostalgic now because it was so much fun when nobody had any lessons or deadlines to meet so we could all go out and enjoy our start to uni life. It was where I met some of my best friends, some of which I’m now living with, so do push yourself out of your comfort zone – you won’t regret it!
During the first week, you will attend the exciting chaos that is the Freshers’ Fair! Held in the sports centre, Maiden Castle, every society will have a stall where you can ask them questions and sign up to their group. They range from the super niche like Hummus Society, to the more academic like Politics and International Relations. They organise socials, trips and balls which are a crucial part of the Durham experience. I got involved with the Students for Sustainable Living Society after the fair and even made it onto the exec! My advice, sign up for anything that you think you might enjoy. These provide yet another opportunity to meet new, likeminded people.
Because of the collegiate system, you also have college societies. These tend to be the less niche but, if you think one needs to be created, all you need is the JCR to agree it. For example, my friends and I created the John Snow True Crime and Horror Society! If you’re like me and not particularly sporty, college sport is a great place to start. Unlike university-level sports, these groups are for anyone who just wants to give it a go whether it be football or ultimate frisbee no matter your ability!
For me, the best part of starting university was the pomp and pageantry that is Matriculation. This is where everyone will be dressed in their suits or dresses and their black gown (if your college is gowned). You will walk down the cobbled streets of Durham to the Cathedral where you are formally admitted into the University. It’s a tradition that every fresh gets a picture on Prebends/Matriculation bridge to show everyone you’ve officially made it to Durham!
Finally, don’t take the first few weeks too seriously. If you don’t find your people instantly, it’s okay! I met some of my closest friends right at the end of the first year. Just make sure you get involved in as much as you can and simply enjoy the experience – you are about to embark on some of the best years of your life.
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