When I arrived at my room in Durham on 1st October 2016, I was already five hours late for the party – cows on the line at Peterborough. In all honesty, the disastrous train journey felt like a metaphor for the whole of the previous year: Having applied to Cambridge the previous September - then missed my offer the following August – I found myself visiting Durham for the first time only a month before my course started. This brings me to my first tip of this post:
1. Be prepared. While you’d be forgiven for failing to account for bovine mayhem on the East Coast Mainline, it might be worth knowing a bit about life in your chosen university town or city before you arrive. Don’t be afraid to contact the societies and groups you want to join and work out if they’re the kind of thing you’d enjoy.
The topic of organisation brings me to my second point, which initially seems like a direct contradiction of the first:
2. Be a bit chaotic. You’ve just arrived in a brand new place. You’re surrounded by activity and diversity. And it’s first term - don’t be a puritan about it all. My suggestion is to talk to everyone and have a go at everything that appeals to you, and definitely to do one thing that has nothing to do with your degree.
Once you’ve got into the swing of things - and you’re insanely busy with your extra-curricular activities (and the odd bit of coursework) – there’s always the possibility you’ll get a bit claustrophobic. Durham, for example, is a small city and it’s densely populated with students, meaning you can scarcely walk to the off-licence at 2 am without seeing several people you know. While this close community can be a blessing, it can also get really intense.
3. Get out of the bubble every now and then. Personally, I find it helpful once in a while to take a trip up to Newcastle shopping or for an evening out with a few close friends (unless I’m trying to escape those people too!)
Everyone has a different experience of first term. Personally, and despite all the great people I met, it took me a surprisingly long time to feel comfortable or happy at University. And despite the amazing, wonderful and supportive college reps and all the fantastic induction events, I still remember feeling really unhappy throughout freshers’ week. Freshers, for many, is a time where they feel vulnerable and just want to run away. It’s one of those rocky periods that you just have to throw yourself into, but you’ll be really glad that it happened.