Freshers is an exciting time, with so many new people and places to discover, but this can make it a daunting and difficult time for many. With statistics from Which? University revealing that a third of students felt socially pressured at some stage during their first term, it is easy to see that the parties and fun only go so far. University is the time to reinvent yourself and get out of your comfort zone, but the huge lifestyle changes, on top of wanting to fit in can be exhausting, and painful if not all goes to plan. With new flatmates, new courses and a whole new way of life, it is easy to get lost along the way.
However, UEA is well equipped to help with any problems you might have, and it is always worth getting some advice, from older students like myself, or elsewhere. From the outside, Freshers seems like a barrel of laughs. And, it is! But, going out every night of the week whilst attending your introductory lectures and seminars is really quite difficult ñ I learned that the hard way! It may be tempting to skip these preliminary hours, but these sessions will give you all the vital information you will need about UEA life and how your course will work. Get a step ahead, or just get off on the right foot, by making sure you attend.
Not only this, but Freshers flu is well and truly real, no matter how many energy drinks you have to try and hide it. For many, this is the first time Mum won’t be there to take care of them. Therefore, it is vitally important to attend registration at the UEA medical centre, located next to the INTO building and the Bluebell road entrance to UEA. It only takes a matter of minutes, and this GP surgery is designed for students, with nurses and doctors on standby to help with all your medical needs. Your health is their primary concern, and this includes sexual health. Free contraception is available from the nurse’s desk, alongside free STI screening kits. Other services include a dentist upstairs, and your new GP can also offer you support with any mental health problems you might be having. As you can tell, it is so important to take the necessary steps to ensure that if anything goes wrong, you will be well looked after. The medical centre are there just in case, but meanwhile, getting plenty of rest, eating right, and taking a night off if you need to will also help to keep you going all Freshers long!
Emotional health is also incredibly important to maintain, and with so many new people around, it can be tough finding your feet. My main piece of advice is this: don’t expect to make lots of best friends instantly. Everyone is so desperate to meet new people in Freshers that it has never been easier to just get talking, and 54 percent of students surveyed by Which? University said making new friends was easier than they thought it would be. However, there are a few helpful hints to make it even easier. Leave your bedroom door open when you move in to your new accommodation, so that passing flatmates will pop in and say hello. Get together in the kitchen for some dinner or drinks before Freshers events, so that those who like to party can, and those who don’t will not feel left out. Bear in mind that many people take longer to feel comfortable with new environments, and you don’t want to miss out on a great new friend simply because they are shy, so try to be as inclusive as possible.
Unfortunately, it is impossible to ignore the fact that some people struggle to get along with their flatmates, and even those who bond instantly can benefit from making other friendship circles outside their flat. Joining societies is a great step to meet people, so make sure you attend the societies fayre and sports fayre. There are over 200 societies and sports clubs at UEA to get involved with, so no matter your interests, it is possible for everyone to enjoy their first taste of university life. Friendships will become stronger as you go through your university experience, and you may never see some people you met in Freshers again. But, for now, put yourself out there and get talking!
However, if you feel like you do not have anyone to turn to yet, the UEA advice service in Union House is an informal, friendly service to help with any problems you are having. They offer 15-minute drop-in sessions and longer booked appointments to help you. Also, the Student Support Service (Formerly DOS) offers free 6-week counselling programmes (subject to assessment) if you feel you need regular support from a counsellor.
If it’s the middle of the night and you’re feeling alone, UEA nightline is a free, friendly listening service run by students, for students. Even better, it’s totally anonymous, and you can contact them via phone, messenger or email. The Nightline operators are there to support and listen to you from 8pm-8am every single day. University can be daunting without your home support group there, but there is every opportunity to find friendship and advice at UEA, no matter the type of support you are looking for.
UEA is also full of support in other areas. Budgeting at university can be difficult, so Barclays bank on the street can help with your finances, and Career Central can aid your search for a part time job if your finances need a boost. Finding a work/life balance can be tough, but it is possible for everyone.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to university life, but the most important thing is to tailor your experience to what you hope to get out of it all. If partying isn’t your thing, don’t worry! There are plenty of other opportunities to socialise and you are not alone. Likewise, if you love to party, there are socials, club nights and parties, so dance the night away! UEA is the academic home of over 14,000 students, all with different wants, needs, talents and opinions, so you will find friends, support, knowledge all around. You never know, you might even find yourself along the way!