Last week was Welcome Week at Queen Mary. Seeing loads of first year students, milling about the campus with a bewildered yet excited look on their face made me smile, and pause to reminisce about my first day as a fully-fledged university student.
I remember the night before the start of the term last year. I was terrified. What if I don’t make any friends? What if I don’t fit in? What if I hate my course? What if I wear the wrong thing in lectures? These questions kept swarming in my head. I could hardly sleep. My anxieties, however, were mixed together with a sense of adventure and excitement. For me, getting into university was the culmination of years of preparing for exams (GCSEs and A Levels) and months of waiting for the results. This was it. As clichéd as it sounds, I was about to start a new chapter in my life – meet new people and study a subject that I really enjoy. My fears were balanced and calmed by a feeling of optimism.
Recently, I was talking to my friends about this and realised I wasn’t the only person who felt nervous. For a lot of students, this is the first time they are moving away from home, from family and friends, and it is quite daunting. But the important thing to remember is that everyone is in the same boat. The issue with ‘what ifs’ is that the complete opposite of your worst fears are also a possibility: what if you met a group of really interesting and friendly people? What if you absolutely loved your course? At school, I think, we spend a lot of time worrying about fitting in but it is completely different at university. It is ok to be different and to have a different opinion to other people. I can guarantee you that you will gravitate towards people who have similar interests to you. You will also make friends with people who are very different to you, and that is a brilliant thing because I think we should celebrate difference as it expands our outlook and introduces us to new ideas.
Universities have Welcome Weeks to ease the transition into Higher Education. During this week there are no lessons. There are induction talks by each academic school, welcoming the new students to university and their course. The School of English and Drama asked me to briefly talk to the new students about my experience of university so far. I was a bit nervous but I am happy to report that it went really well – people laughed at my jokes! My department also held a Welcome Party which was a great way for the students to meet members of the staff and other students in their course. There were, of course, countless events organised by our Student Union. This included events held during the day and night.
One of the best events to attend is the Freshers’ Fair. This is when all the student-led societies congregate together and set up stalls. Both old and new students can visit each stall to find out more about what they do and sign up. Societies are a bit like extra-curricular clubs that you have at school – only so much better! At QM, we have hundreds of societies. There are academic societies, sports societies, political societies, Wine Society, Game of Thrones Society, Harry Potter Society, just to name a few. Societies are a great way to make friends, and to meet people from different years, and people outside your course. Last year, I have to say I went a bit overboard and joined quite a few societies but I didn’t end up going to a lot of them. So, I’d definitely recommend you try out as many societies as possible, but perhaps make sure you’re really going to go to them before committing long-term.
I hope you have found this insight into Welcome Week a little helpful. My advice about starting university would be to have an open mind and a positive attitude. Try out new things – you never know you might really end up liking it!