Skip to content

Freshers week: Learning to manage your expectations

Annie McNamme explores the reality of Freshers week and outlines the best ways to manage your expectations as a newcomer.

By Annie McNamee, Features Digital Editor

Here you are, beginning university. You have spent 15 years learning and studying, many months staying up late revising for exams, and a summer planning exactly which fairy lights to use in your new room. Time, energy and money, all went towards this moment. It’s Freshers week.

It makes perfect sense that students expect a lot from Freshers. Aside from knowing how hard you worked to make it here in the first place, coming to university represents the beginning of adulthood, and brings with it a freedom that most are entirely unfamiliar with.

The level of independence attained almost overnight is appealing for obvious reasons - the possibilities are dizzying. Everything is ahead of you, and good things are to come.

For some, Freshers lives up to the hype. It can be great if you are a people person, or enjoy being busy.  

Epigram spoke to Iona, who is currently going into her third year. She looks back fondly on her time during Freshers: ‘I loved it!’, she said with a smile, ‘It was really fun meeting loads of new people, and I got some great stories out of it.’ For her, it was too frantic to even begin thinking about missing home: ‘It was hectic and brutal at times, but it was brilliant.’

However, not everyone is so lucky, or so suited to the frenzy of new faces and activities. In polling past and present students at Bristol, Epigram found that 60% of students felt that Freshers week hadn’t lived up to their expectations, meaning almost two thirds of students were left dissatisfied with their introduction to university life. Several factors may contribute to this sensation. For instance, a sense of disappointment may become more pronounced when you’ve been excited for something for so long.

'If you are struggling with loneliness or homesickness, remember that you are in the majority'

Speaking to Epigram, one third year student - who wished to remain anonymous - discussed how he was taken aback by Freshers week: ‘I came into university not thinking about the negatives. I was nervous, but I thought it would be okay overall [...] I just didn’t know it would be so hard.’

This is a struggle many young people face. Freedom is wonderful, but it comes with its difficulties. For every fun night out, there is a terrible hangover that keeps you in bed until 3pm. Living without restrictions from parents is liberating, but it can easily result in a lack of routine and balance. Taking care of yourself is more challenging than many anticipate. ‘I don’t even think university itself was the hard part,’ said one economics student. ‘Adulthood is hard, and unfortunately most of us only begin to really experience that at university.’

Plenty of people don’t know their limits at the beginning of first year, and you will probably end a night covered in either your own vomit, or that of someone you met hours prior. You may not meet anyone you like in week one, or even term one. First year, particularly Freshers, can be emotionally challenging. Consequently, it is crucial that you know where to find help if you need it.

The university offers lots of support, including a free counselling service, which can be accessed through your accommodation with resi-life, or directly through a support request. The university’s student health service is also useful if you are struggling with your mental health and need more long-term solutions. Sometimes you just need to vent, and the charity Nightline is a student-run service for you to call at nighttime, if you wish to speak freely and anonymously to somebody.

If you are struggling with loneliness or homesickness, remember that you are in the majority. Leaving home for the first time - and arriving in a new city -  is a significant milestone in one’s life. It is natural to struggle with this adjustment, and completely normal to feel isolated despite being surrounded by so many people.

Only partially due to the amount of tequila I consumed, my Freshers week was a blur that I hardly remember. I have forgotten most of what happened, but I have not forgotten how I felt. I can still feel the pit at the bottom of my stomach, and the vague fuzz throughout my arms, chest and neck.

'Take a deep breath.  It will all work out.'

As much as my mind has forgotten, my body certainly has not. I was a ball of anxiety for a lot of my first year, which is much more common than you might think. Once I began to open up to friends about my struggles, I was shocked at how many people were having the exact same experiences, and yet we had all felt as if we were alone in them. It got easier for all of us, and now we are all closer friends thanks to the difficulties we shared.

Freshers represents the beginning of a new era. You should absolutely come into it with excitement and optimism, because there is plenty to love and look forward to.

‘Say yes to as much as you can,’ one second year student told Epigram. ‘If it's bad you can leave within 10 minutes. But at least try it out,’ he enthused.

Great expectations: does university fulfil the coming-of-age formula?
'I don't know how they can treat individuals like this' | Students express fury at delays to degree results

So enjoy Freshers, for all its good, bad and ugly parts. Don’t feel disheartened if it isn’t everything you dreamed of, as most of your peers probably feel the same way. Take opportunities where you can, but be kind to yourself. Be kind to your liver. Take a deep breath.  It will all work out.

Featured Image: Unsplash / Keith Luke

What are you most looking forward to during Freshers week?