Starting university is a daunting experience and many alumni we spoke to, remember their first day well. There is a universality to the fresher’s experience. For students living in halls the first weekend is a rush to move their belongings into their new room and get to know their flatmates. Pierre describes the chaos of his first day.
We got here stupidly early in the morning, at like 9 on the dot. So, we were first in, I was moving into Cryfield, Cryfield 1, Room 8, I think it was. It was baking hot, really, really warm that day. I remember it being absolutely roasting hot and we are kind of carrying box after box up the slope from the car to the halls cause they had not yet invented this system I noticed 8 months ago [when I helped my younger brother move in] where they have second year students carting your stuff for you. Which is a marvellous improvement, we didn’t have that.” Pierre, French and History, 2011-2015 (picture by Pierre)
The rush to make friends was discussed by several interviewees and for most students this is the focus of the first weekend.
Peculiar sense of excitement, you know, of trying to grab a cupboard space in the shared kitchen and, you know, trying desperately hard to prop the fire door to the room open so you could see if, you know, as other housemates arrived. Because I’m originally from quite near to the university, from my parents its only about an hour's drive, so obviously I was one of the first people to arrive, long before several of the other people I was living with were there.” Andrew, French and History, 2010-2015
The fresher’s night at the SU, Pierre described as a key event which his flatmates and him used to get know each other better. Unsurprisingly, the night was chaotic.
I remember in the first evening’s party one of our hall mates got kicked out by 9 o’clock, cause he had, like, necked a whole bottle of champagne at 7 in the evening, so by 9 we had to carry him back to bed, and by the time we got back to the Copper Rooms, he was already back in there.” Pierre, French and History, 2011-2015
For some student’s the Fresher week’s is not the end to the nightlife experience dominating the first week and the rest of first year. In his interview, Andrew described that many of his hall mates had this attitude and although fun at first, he was less interested in going out so regularly. Instead, his main friendships were formed with course mates.
The flat in the accommodation block I was in was very party heavy, very rowdy, so I think the first week it was out pretty much every night, um, as we all kind of got to know each other. Weirdly as the year went on, I kind of got more and more distant from those people. I got a group of friends from my course, which then spread into friends they knew from other. Um, and it was with them that I ultimately ended up living with in my second year.” Andrew, French and History, 2010-2014
Fresher’s is a chance to have fun, so when asked about his funniest memory from university Andrew recalled a prank from his time in Halls.
One of the things I really loved about Arthur Vick was the fact that it wasn’t divided into flats, it was corridors so in a sense we would always be in and out of each other’s kitchens to talk to people and this was someone I didn’t live with, but, she lived in one of the flat’s I think on our floor and her flat mates played an awful prank on her. Which was she made the mistake of leaving her room unlocked so they moved her bed and most of her furniture down the fire escape and put it outside I just remember coming back from a lecture like turning the corner to go into the building and just thinking “Why is this bed here? Why is this chest of drawers here?” I don’t understand and then out she comes running out of the building just looking at her stuff and I was like “Oh, that’s what’s happened.” Andrew, French and History, 2010-2015
Beyond making friends, Fresher’s is also about getting to grips with academic life and for different interviewees this meant different things. Andrew recalled his first meeting in which his cohort left a bit overwhelmed by the Head of Department.
And the first day, weirdly I don’t really remember much of the first day of actual, I don’t want to say classes, but kind of inductions. That just went by in a kind of blur really, of moving from meeting to meeting. Umm, the one thing I can vaguely remember is… [the] Head of the Department in history at the time. He was a very terrifying man, who basically terrified us into the fact that we should always applaud every lecturer after they’d finished. Which I think the cohort kind of did for the remainder of the first two or three lectures and then just quietly stopped doing after that.” Andrew, French and History, 2010-2014
As a mature student Katherine found settling into student life initially difficult. The move from a 9-5 working environment to life at Warwick was a considerable shift, and for the first year she maintained the schedule she had developed in the workplace.
The very first meeting, induction meeting at 9 o’clock the first morning... then this guy started to talk... He started to talk and as with most talks after about 10 minutes, 20 minutes, you tend to lose focus, it’s all just waffle and then I happened to look at a clock and it said 25 past 9 and I suddenly thought “Christ I haven’t balanced my till.” I was, literally… cause on the Friday before I had been working in a bank and you have to be ready to open at 9:30; you have to have balanced your till and I just had this really weird moment thinking “Ahh, I don’t need to anymore, ever”.
I think it took me the whole of the first year to get into the whole student feel because I remember going to Dennis the RE guy after his lecture and cause the timetable is so sparse compared to what you’ve been doing, life had been so regimented, you’ve just got a few lectures and seminars and I went to Dennis and said, “so what do I need to do before the seminar next week?” and he said, and he looked at me… and laughed and said “go out and get drunk” and I was horrified.
I thought: “I have given up a good job to do this course. I am not going out and getting drunk” and it just took me most of the first year to settle into student life and I made myself go to the library at Westwood every day and work till 4 o’clock. I couldn’t cope with finishing and going home before 4 and as a result I got all firsts in that first year and I wish I had kept it up, cause I might have come out with a first at the end of it. But, I kind of, sort of eased off a bit on the second year but also, they started piling on more of the education stuff, the literacy and numeracy, science, we were getting assignments from here there and everywhere. And of course, each year you had a placement in school to prepare for and to go and do, so it got a bit heavier further on. But I did have to learn to loosen up and learn to get into the student mindset a bit. It was weird.” Katherine, Education, English and RE with QTS, 1990-1994