All The Things I’d Tell My Freshers’ Week Self

The main thing; the recurring thing; the thing I’d repeat to my freshers’ self over and over would be: “don’t panic”. Freshers’ week is, for many people, one of the most daunting experiences. For me, it was a week of constant overthinking about what everyone else thought of me, and how every first impression might affect the next three years of my life. I placed inordinate pressure on every encounter, never knowing if this person would be a friend for life or someone I would never see again.

This type of over-thinking is common place, which leads to the irony of it all: if everyone is judging themselves, they aren’t judging you. Whilst I wouldn’t say to judge people, you do have the right to make up your own mind about others. You are not an outsider to the ‘freshers machine’, you are a part of it. You must remember that you deserve to be here just as much as everyone else.

Of course, we all want to make good first impressions, the slightly cliché advice I have is: be yourself. If you are being yourself you will attract people that like you, and that you actually like (and you won’t have to keep up any pretences for months to come). But again, don’t panic! You have three years to explore university and who you are in it, so if you feel like you’ve come across badly or been misunderstood, you have three more years to show people who you really are. So, if it is day three and you still didn’t quite feel you have found your people, don’t panic. You aren’t automatically going to find them in your flat, and you are unlikely to find them in a club. But you are going to start your course next week and you might just find them there, or in a society you join, or at a party in a few weeks’ time.  There are thousands of people here. You will find yours. 

An important subheading to Don’t Panic, is: It is Not a Race, so Don’t Sprint. Some people might have told you Freshers’ week will be the best week ever. While I don’t mean to offend these people – it really shouldn’t be the best week, because that implies it’s all downhill from here! Freshers’ week is actually just one week, the first week, of three years (or more depending on your degree).

With this in mind I would certainly have encouraged my Freshers’ self to take a night (or two) staying in. Not going clubbing every night is nothing to be ashamed of. When you google “freshers”, in images you will find photo after photo of groups of people in clubs. Clubbing isn’t for everyone. Clubbing every night definitely isn’t for most people. You might have been told that you need to be out every night, but remember it’s just one week of three years, you might find you have far better nights out later in the year with people you actually know. (And freshers’ flu is real and once it gets you it really takes hold).

A night in might reenergise you and no one you actually want to be friends with will judge you for this. Other people in your flat might be feeling exactly the same way, so suggesting staying in and watching a film together might be exactly what they want to hear! 

Lastly, something which Exeter offers is a gorgeous campus and city, so explore them both. A walk is a wonderful time to check-in with yourself. You will discover so many picturesque places on campus and in the city, it might remind you that you have made a wonderful choice to be here. I found it reassuring that I had committed myself to a beautiful place. Nothing you do for yourself is a waste of time, especially in Freshers’ week, and exploring will also give you places to show other people later on. 

Over the next three years you will discover the good, the bad, and the ugly of university life. Don’t expect to experience all of it in week one. So, this week be kind to yourself, be honest with yourself, trust in yourself and your abilities, and repeat to yourself: don’t panic.