So after the first couple of days of general confusion, experimentation with kitchen equipment and flat bonding, it was time to get out into Southampton and make the most of Freshers’ Week.
“You only get one, so make the most of it!” was advice given to me by many people before I’d arrived, and I fully intended to. After all, it’s probably the only time you can speak to a complete stranger absolutely anywhere – the corridor, the bus, the laundrette, the supermarket - and then go on to become great friends with them!
I think forming friendships is one of the things which worries people the most about the prospect of leaving home (it certainly did in my case), and naturally so. You’ve probably known most of your mates at home for years, and you’ll have gone through a lot together, so having to leave them for months at a time and completely reinvent your social wheels from the ground up can seem very intimidating, particularly if, as in my case, you’re not from nearby and know only one other person, or indeed nobody, before you go. As someone who’s normally quite quiet (I say ‘normally’ because when you get me talking about football, I never shut up!) I had some reservations that I was going to be able to suppress my natural shyness and get to know people.
I needn’t have worried, of course, because much as in the same way every student helps to support one another when settling down, they also, whether from nearby or abroad, also actively engage with everybody else to learn names and faces. For example, during the first night’s Welcoming Party, I can recall meeting a whole host of great people, including two Norwegians, three Americans and two Germans, but I don’t think I’ve seen them since! On the other hand, I also met people who I would run into every day on the bus, or around my block at Monte (the affectionate name for Montefiore halls). At the end of the day, it’s just nice to know some guys to say ‘hi’ to when you’re walking across campus to a lecture – or, often for me, running across campus, late!
At the Freshers’ “Wonderland” themed night. It was either a performance by the Circus of Horrors, or by the new SUSU Sabbatical team!
Going to lots of the Freshers’ Events that SUSU (the Students’ Union here) organised also really helped me to enjoy the week, especially as they catered for everybody with a vast variety of events. Before I started university I very rarely drank alcohol, for example, and I thought that as a result I might be in the minority throughout the week, but the events were planned such that there were both parties and other more relaxed stuff happening simultaneously, offering complete flexibility in deciding whether I felt like going out or just having a night in watching the Lion King with the flatmates (the first of many, many times).
I should also probably say that although it’s good to buy tickets to the events before you go, if you do miss out, don’t worry: quite a lot of people were willing to trade upon arrival, so whole flats could still go to places together (although I’d suggest pre-booking for the Freshers’ Ball, as it’s the must-go night and a great chance to get snazzy!). Oh, and remember to bring as much fancy dress as possible!
One event which has to be seen to be believed is the ‘Bunfight’, where all the SUSU-affiliated societies (and there are a lot of them) have representative stalls trying to recruit you or, at the very least, get your email address on their mailing list – I’m still getting emails from the Judo society now, even though I never found the time to go along (you can, of course, take yourself off these lists)! The sheer number of activities you can partake in here is quite incredible; there were three whole sports halls packed with people asking me to try out Korfball, sky diving, live music, SUSU media (including television, radio and press), computer games, Welsh appreciation, Street Dance and half a dozen various forms of martial arts, amongst other things.
The SUSU Bunfight – prepare to be persuaded!
Most societies will have taster sessions, which are a great way to fill out the first two weeks as they give you a glimpse of what the society can offer, as well as, of course, introducing you to more people. Personally, I opted to head along to sessions for SUSUtv, a couple of Performing Arts societies, the SUSingers choir and dodgeball – the latter probably because I like the film! It was great to meet such a massive number of people and experience so much before my course had even begun, so if there’s one thing I really recommend you do upon arriving, it’s to approach everything with an open mind and make the most of the Bunfight. Oh, and if you’re running short on pens, popcorn or pizza, the volumes of free stuff handed out at Freshers’ Fair is pretty handy too!
As a member of Electronics and Computer Science, or ECS, I was also lucky enough to be enrolled on their ‘Jumpstart’ programme, designed to introduce you to your tutor, your year group and Southampton itself. Most departments organise similar sorts of things, and I’d urge everybody to go along to them. As a lot of the work that goes on in the computer science industry relies on teamwork, we were encouraged to get to know as many new names as possible. Following a tour of the city, introductory talks and a pub quiz, I passed Jumpstart with a large amount of new acquaintances made. I also ended up a box of Jaffa Cakes to the good, as my tutor group’s entry into the Present a Zombie Apocalypse Survival Plan competition was awarded first place!
So upon reflection, I found that the amount on offer during Freshers’ Week meant that I could make of it what I wanted to at the time. I had time for rest and time for play. But its most enjoyable aspect was that I rarely felt like I had to work at it. Despite my worries, friendships just... happened, and they have done in Southampton ever since.
So during the week, do your best to enjoy the ride. You only get one, after all.