Fresh Thoughts | Musings on my first term at Bristol


By Sophie Downes, first year, English Literature

Sophie Downes reflects upon the highs and the lows as a fresher in her first term at the University of Bristol and what aspects of University life did and didn't live up to her expectations.

It’s no secret that Universities are a place of expectations. Before I’d even applied to Bristol, I was told on numerous occasions that Uni would be the ‘most fun three years’ and even more astronomically, the ‘best time of your life’. Whilst this gave me an accurate taste of what I was getting myself into, it’s worth noting that this did little to prepare me for the more difficult moments.  

So, as my first term has come to a close, it’s worth reflecting on how far I have come in the last few months and how much things have changed.

Moving into my University accommodation | Epigram / Sophie Downes

Freshers week retained an almost mystical element in my eyes before I started at Bristol; notions of going out every night with my new best friends, learning my way around a new city, longingly choosing my reading material all appealed to me as the epitome of University life.

What I wasn’t told was how odd Fresher’s week could actually be. In my experience, and what seems to be a common one at that, I found the first few weeks of University particularly strange and difficult.

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In what other scenario are you going clubbing every night with a group of people you’ve never met before and still aren’t exactly sure of their names? This, of course, is accentuated by the ongoing hangover interspersed with intermittent bouts of homesickness and freshers flu.

'In what other scenario are you going clubbing every night with a group of people you’ve never met before and still aren’t exactly sure of their names?'Sophie Downes, first year

In an exhausting drive to follow the advice ‘throw yourself into everything,’ I quite literally tried cheerleading, lacrosse, yoga and Bollywood dance. On top of this, I was cooking for myself for the first time (plain pasta and stir fry, admittedly) as well as learning to put on washes and organise a weekly budget.

Family pres for a cheerleading social | Epigram / Sophie Downes

Whilst these skills didn’t take too long to master, they all played a part in the overwhelming feeling that persisted throughout the first few weeks of my University life.

Probably the biggest shift for me was moving accommodations. Having been placed somewhere which I hadn’t applied for and having perservered for a couple of weeks, I knew that I would be a lot happier in the area I originally sought out and where I knew people already.

Making the move to a different accomodation completely changed my University experience, and I would advise anyone who is unhappy with where they are staying to seek out other options, even if it means uphauling your belongings a second time around Bristol- sorry Mum and Dad!

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An issue that seems to hold more fruition as time goes by, is the guilty reminder of the actual academic reasons for my being at University in the first place. The whole Uni culture of drinking and clubbing multiple times a week has only increased in difficulty since Freshers week, now leaving the majority of us unable to get through a day without frequent assertions of our fatigue and lack of energy.

A classic Gravity night out | Epigram / Sophie Downes 

Indeed, whilst a classic Gravity night seems like the best idea at the time- ‘it’s only first year’, after all-, sitting in a 10a.m. tutorial half-asleep isn’t how I envisioned the academic side of Uni.

'I would advise anyone who is unhappy with where they are staying to seek out other options'Sophie

So, even though I can’t bring myself to regret any of my disorderly nights out, I’d also recommend being tactical with your social life and not missing seminars/tutorials that you’re actually going to depend on later.  

Overall, my experience of Uni has varied significantly over this term. It’s fair to say that I still have moments where everything still feels quite surreal and not dissimilar to a strangely long summer camp. However, over the course of the term, I’ve gained new friends, growing in independence and a social life that quite literally never stops.

I can’t wait to see what next term has in store!

Featured Image: Epigram / Sophie Downes

What was your first-term experience at UoB? Let us know in the comments!