Gemma Joyce is a third year student at Exeter University. Ahead of Freshers' Week she has produced her top ten tips for the new arrivals into the city.
Arriving in Exeter with absolutely no clue as to what is going on or where you’re meant to be going is a scary adventure. You’ve battled UCAS forms, you’ve written a shining personal statement, you’ve conquered your A Levels and you’ve got your place - but none of this can prepare you for the chaos of Freshers’ Week. Pay attention to these tips and you’ll have a whale of a time from start to finish.
1. Be yourself with your flatmates
This is the only time in your life when you’re made to live with complete strangers for a whole year. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not, because first impressions will be remembered and you will be laughed at later in the year when it’s discovered that you only wore that beret to try to look edgy. Be yourself, be nice, and hope that you don’t get stuck in a room next to someone who plays the drums.
2. Explore the city
Exeter is an amazing place with all kinds of things to do and see. While it’s important to get your bearings on campus you’ll be spending all year there and getting out to see the Cathedral isn’t going to be an option when your deadlines are keeping you in the library. Check out the shops and the sights - you should be able to find some good freshers deals.
3. Don’t just drink
While setting yourself the challenge of going out every night and drinking yourself into oblivion might sound appealing, you’ll only miss out. There’s a lot more to uni life (and Freshers’ Week) than throwing up in the kitchen sink and sleeping in til the next evening.
4. Check out the taster sessions on campus
Freshers’ Week is all about getting acquainted with your new home, and that should include trying out some new things. Societies and sports of all types (from Harry Potter to Hockey) will be competing for your membership - exploit the freebies and see which activities you find the most fun. You might pick up a new hobby!
5. Make friends
This is the only time of the year when it’s socially acceptable to walk up to random strangers and introduce yourself without them thinking you’re crazy. Make conversation wherever you go - everyone’s in the same boat and is just as desperate to find friends as you. If you’re lost don’t be afraid to ask someone for help - campus and the city are huge places to get used to. The Welcome Team will be out and about in the city and on campus wearing bright pink - they’re there to help, so approach them if you need anything.
6. Go to themed nights out
While some might find fancy dress less appealing than a five thousand word essay on the philosophy of garden furniture, going out with a group of other people looking as silly as you is surprisingly good way to build a friendship. Just don’t make the same mistake as me of going out in full costume on the wrong night. Standing in The Ram in Hogwarts robes wondering where the rest of the team are is never a good way to spend the evening! Going out on a themed night will also probably involve you being with a society (like Disney Society or Campus Cinema) - it’s good to break free from your flatmates, who by this point might be driving you up the wall, and find friends with similar interests.
7. Learn to cook
If you’re as prepared as I was then cooking is going to be a challenge. Use this week of non-timetabled fun to learn to cook up a few dishes. The more you practice the less time you’ll spend puzzling over how long eggs actually take to boil or how much pasta is an acceptable amount for one person.
8. Think about what you bring
Recalling my parents look despairingly from the pile of belongings I presented them with to the size of the boot of the car, I can’t believe how much stuff I thought would be essential items for my freshers year. You probably won’t need the entire works of Shakespeare if you’re not an English student and if you think you’re going to use an ironing board then think again. Keep it simple - your halls will probably come equipped with the essentials and you’ll be spending more time out socialising in your first year than tending to the plant you’re trying to fit into the car.
9. Be careful what you spend
If you’re lucky enough to have your student loan arrive before freshers then you may be tempted to spend it all on room decoration, junk food and alcohol. Resist! Keeping your finances in check is one of the most important skills you’ll learn this year so try to be sensible. Join societies you know you’ll love, don’t join the gym unless you’re definitely going to go and budget your nights out or you’ll be spending the rest of term eating beans on toast (if that wasn’t your plan already).
10. Accept that this might not be the best week of your life
The most important thing to remember about freshers is that it’s not going to represent the peak of your enjoyment of university. Plenty of people get homesick, don’t meet anyone they really get on with or struggle to get to grips with the new environment. Don’t panic and don’t give up - there really is something for everyone at Exeter and you’ll find your way eventually!
Congratulations and best of luck to everyone joining the University of Exeter this year - get involved, keep safe and have fun!