It’s the 22nd of September 2016 and moving day has finally arrived. As the journey to my new home – the Mayflower Halls of Residence – began, I was suddenly hit by a tidal of wave of emotions. My parents were asking me if I was ok, to which I mumbled back an unconvincing yes. I knew that, deep down, even though I wasn’t sure that I was ok, this was it. I knew that this week was my first big obstacle to overcome. Yet, as scared as I was, there was something strangely exciting about the trial-run of adulting I was about to be thrust into.
My first week at the University of Southampton is one that I look back on fondly. I won’t even begin to pretend that I didn’t arrive absolutely terrified. A self-declared introvert, I was still reeling from my awkward adolescent years. Each time I thought of the three years ahead of me I was struck by a pang of anxiety that had settled firmly in my stomach, which got fiercer each day as moving day approached. In all honesty, the painful truth was that I had no clue what kind of person I was. I certainly didn’t feel secure in myself – let alone amongst a group of total strangers. I was going into university feeling totally exposed, and completely vulnerable. Deep down, though, I knew I really needed to try during the first proper week, and I just hoped that there was some part of me that was brave enough to push my nerves aside momentarily so I could step up to the challenge.
I always thought that my memories of Fresher’s Week would almost exclusively consist of blurry flashbacks of dancing away in a crowded club. Of course, there is absolutely no better group-bonding activity than hitting a club, showing off your worst moves, and “rapping” along to a verse of Dizzee Rascal’s Bonkers. However, the memories that I treasure most from that first week are the more mundane ones: that first cup of tea as we all sat around the kitchen table, exchanging introductions; our flat trip to West Quay and IKEA for small homely touches, and the highly anticipated first weekly food shop at ASDA.
When it came to the nights out, none of us actually made it to every single night out in that first week. Maybe we just weren’t the hard-core bunch of partying millennials that everyone assumes Freshers to be, but having battled through the Welcome Party at The Cube on the Saturday and the following two evenings of events, we needed a break by the time it got to Tuesday. It didn’t help that the dreaded Fresher’s Flu had started to creep in either. So, on the Tuesday evening we opted for a movie night instead, with a cup of tea in hand and surrounded by an abundance of pillows and four packets of biscuits. It certainly did us the world of good to take it easy for a bit – at least for the livers of some of my flatmates. We all chatted away, not paying much attention to whatever film we eventually decided on, getting to know one another that little bit more.
Obviously, it’s during the first week that all the ‘mega fun’ events like the welcome talks take place, but despite being a rather dull way to spend thirty minutes, these talks made me begin to feel more settled at Southampton. Being on campus and wandering around the library in a rather feeble attempt to get my bearings felt surreal, but in a good way. For full disclosure, it actually took another two weeks before I started to remember roughly where the English books were located for one of my modules. From one student to another, I’d recommend braving Hartley as soon as you can – it makes life a hell of a lot easier in the long run.
Then there was Bunfight – I still find myself shocked at the sheer amount of student societies we have here at Southampton. As my flatmates and I wandered around trying to take in all the groups and activities, the sense of community at Southampton and the overall student atmosphere appealed to me more than ever. Suddenly, while being inundated by the faces of smiley students handing me various flyers and leaflets, I felt at home. There was so much on offer, and so many exciting opportunities ahead. Over the last two years, I’m proud to say that I’ve embraced a lot of the opportunities that attracted me that first week into term – aside from the tennis trials that is, the leaflet for which went in the top drawer of my bedside cabinet, never to be looked at again…
I think my main concern had always been that as soon as my parents dropped me off, I would retreat to my room where I’d probably end up hiding for the rest of the week. I thought the first week would be a lonely one, but day by day, I came more and more out of my shell. Gradually, I began to adjust to the idea of living with this new bunch of people in a city that was big and scary compared to the place I’d called home all my life. The first week was overwhelming, but it was the beginning of something much bigger and something incredibly exciting.