This is it. The big one. It’s one of the most talked-about parts of university, and you’ve heard all the horror stories. But bear with me, because weirdly, the week isn’t entirely about the hangovers.
Here’s my A-Z Guide, in 5 parts, to pretty much everything you might encounter in your first week and your first year at university, and I’ll try to answer all the questions you might be having about what on earth is going to happen when you arrive.
A – Accommodation
It’s probably one of the first hurdles that come with starting university, and one of the biggest – after all, you need to actually live somewhere. So whether you’re staying in halls or a house, a majority of you will have new things to get used to – having to clean and look after yourself, sharing a bathroom with (at least initially) complete strangers, hoping that no one is going to steal, break or otherwise vandalise your new frying pan your mum insisted you bring. Don’t worry, it’s not that likely that this sort of thing will happen, so don’t preempt it, you’ll hopefully all come to an agreement, whether that’s to share, or to just all use your own things (I’ll go into this in more detail when we get to K!). As for the bathroom, most people will want to keep everything clean, seeing as you all have to use it, so don’t be afraid to bring it up.
One of the most exciting things about starting university, and a good distraction from the start-of-term nerves is decorating your new digs (sorry). Whether you just keep a few pictures of friends and family or posters from your favourite bands and films, or you (like me) decide to render your room unrecognisable from the bland, faceless room you first moved into, with horrendously excessive quantities of bunting, cushions and picture frames – there’s no shame in either. It’s your space, and you’ve got to live there for a year, so if you feel less homesick in a room that looks like Cath Kidston just vomited in it or you’d rather just keep it simple, that’s fine. Just make sure you check first what you can and can’t do, to avoid accidental fines or losing your deposit at the end of the year by not realising! If you’d like to read more about decorating your new room, check our Lifestyle section next week for tips on making a house a home and all that.
As I’ve said, Freshers’ Week isn’t all about the nights out; don’t worry, I’m not going to get too serious, and I’d genuinely encourage you spending time with other Freshers, whether that’s on nights out or at any of the other huge variety of events happening this week. Just remember that there are other things which can be quite important too.
The two biggest daytime events of the week are the Freshers’ Fayre – filled with different companies giving offers, and the potential to win free Nando’s – and the Bunfight, which is sadly not the baking battle it may initially appear, but rather where all the official SU societies promote themselves and try to encourage you to join. Both are not essential, but it’s strongly recommended that you go if you can, as there are so many different things available for you to save money, and clubs for you to join – just make sure you get there early, as the queues are famous for being pretty long. There are also other events and things on campus during the week, including different societies giving performances and showing their skills on the Concourse.
C – Cooking
For some it’s a big obstacle when starting university, for others, they’re basically already Masterchef pros. But if you’re in self-catered halls or a house, it’s something you need to do, a lot. You can of course go out for meals, and maybe order several takeaways a week – *cought* who does that? *cough*… – but it’s a good idea to try and cook for yourself when you can, and expand your repertoire – sorry, but Pot Noodle is not a meal.
There are a million billion different student cookbooks that boast recipes for students that are both cheap and easy, as well as plenty available in our Lifestyle section, but it’s actually not hard to chuck a load of ingredients into a pan and voilà, you’ve made a spag bol. If you’re worried about cooking, see if your flatmates want to cook with you, so with any luck they’re practically a professional chef and can teach you everything you know, and if not, you can just muddle through together and get to know each other while you’re doing it.
You may also worried about all the politics that come with sharing a kitchen with lots of other students, so have a look at my guide to surviving the student kitchen, as well as K in this guide, to teach you the etiquette – e.g. washing up will not do itself. Sorry about that.
D – Doctor
Freshers’ Week is famous for inducing all sorts of illnesses which might get in the way of your first few weeks of uni, so something to think about is whether you’re going to sign up to the University Health Centre. It’s not essential or obligatory, but it’s a good idea if you’re somebody who gets ill a lot, or who would rather be able to deal with any problems more quickly, as well as getting prescriptions, rather than waiting until you can go to your doctor at home. The University Health Centre is on campus, so it’s easy to get to, and they’re used to dealing with students, so (hopefully) they’ll have dealt with problems like yours before.
There are also a number of other health services on and around campus, including support for mental health – Steps 2 Wellbeing – and the Early Years Centre for students with dependents who need part-time care while the students are studying.
E – Entertainment
Highfield Campus is full of different places and events to keep you entertained any night of the week – whether you’re big on going out or prefer to just chill out with friends. As well as all the different societies you can get involved with, the Stags pub and the Bridge bar offer weekly events from karaoke to comedy nights and live sports on the televisions.
Southampton’s Student Union also proudly offers our own student cinema, Union Films, which offers films only a few weeks after they’ve been in cinemas, for much cheaper than in most national cinemas, as well as free showings in Freshers’ Week, which is a great way to spend some time with friends as a break from work and save some money. Southampton’s campus also has the Nuffield Theatre, in which some of our performing arts societies give performances, but which also houses performances from both local and national groups, and the Arts Pass is available to students, which allows you cheaper access to both the Nuffield and the Hansard Art Gallery, also on campus.
In town, you can see loads of your favourite bands at the Southampton Guildhall, which a lot of artists and musicians visit on their national tours, plus there are other events around Southampton you can visit for things to do, and there’s West Quay shopping centre if a bit of retail therapy is in order. Alongside all of this is of course Southampton’s huge variety of pubs, clubs and bars in town, which you can read more about in the Nights Out post.
Have a look at Part 2: F-J, where I continue to clue you in on all this Freshers, from fancy dress to student healthcare.