As you move away from the comforts of living at home with your family, you are suddenly faced with the reality of being an independent student and, trust me, you will make your fair share of blunders. I’m about to share with you the darker side of Welcome Week – how an event more commonly associated with fun and frivolity, can also be one of the most difficult times for you as a student.
I was so happy when I was accepted to study at University of Essex. Even though I knew I was leaving the best family in the world (my family!), my closest friends and a long-term relationship with my boyfriend, I was so excited to start another chapter in my life as an Essex Undergraduate! I couldn’t wait to taste the local cuisine, meet new friends, have fun with my roommates, travel around England, and study digital marketing!
I came to Colchester the night before Welcome Week started and I went to Sub Zero (that’s the club on campus) with my new roommates. It was really fun, but I was so tired from the long flight I decided to go home and went straight to bed. My alarm clock rang early in the morning – it was the first day of Freshers’ Fair! I put on my favourite outfit and my lucky bracelet and went out. It was absolutely fine that I did not know anyone here yet, in fact it was exciting.
The atmosphere around the campus was definitely one of the nicest things about Fresher’s Fair – everyone was just so friendly! Even though I’m not a big fan of theatre, the Theatre Arts society’s stall grabbed my attention immediately – free popcorn, face painting, balloons everywhere and some unique freebies! I spent at least an hour there, getting my face painted and eating the free popcorn! Then I went to grab a Domino’s – the best slice of pizza I’ve ever had! While I was enjoying my meal it suddenly started raining, so after spending only an hour or two on campus, I had to go home. When I got there though, no one was at the accommodation. I guess I was the only one who wasn’t used to the British weather.
I didn’t know how it had only been two days, but my dirty laundry kept piling up. I’d never lived on my own, never used a washing machine before, and my culinary experience began and ended with cooking a frozen pizza. Instead of giving it a second shot and going out again, I decided to stay in and call my boyfriend. I heard my roommates when they came back home and turned the music on. Not going to their social was a mistake I shouldn’t have made. After that, I spent my days in my dorm room, talking to my family and closest friends; it felt like I’d never left Bulgaria. I was homesick and wasn’t sure if I wanted to be here anymore.
Before I knew it, the autumn term began and I had to head down to campus to start going to my lectures. Since I still didn’t know anyone, it was really hard for me to be completely alone everywhere I went. Sitting alone in lectures, along with the loneliest and longest lunch hours I’ve ever experienced, made these days seem like forever, so I decided to try and find a friend who maybe felt alone like me. Unfortunately, it seemed like I had missed the boat – everyone had already formed friendship groups. I was absolutely terrified of being in social situations where I didn’t know the people I was speaking to, but the longer I was alone, the worse I felt.
I knew that what happened next was entirely in my own hands; I could either be alone for the rest of the year, or I could make a real effort to break out my comfort zone, talk to people and make friends for life. So that’s exactly what I did.
During my next lecture, I turned around and talked to the person next to me; Christina – a lovely Romanian girl who was interested in volleyball, just like me! We decided to go together to Just Play Volleyball and have some fun after the long day.
I also joined several societies that I found to be really interesting, I attended almost every social that they organised and met some truly amazing people. An important lesson I did learn from this period was that opening up to new friends and opportunities should not be overpowered by fear, embarrassment or loneliness.
Fresher’s Week is billed as one of the most exciting, memorable times of your life. Making your own mistakes while you are here is inevitable and that’s perfectly fine, but if you want to get the most out of this week, here are my top 3 pitfalls you need to avoid doing.
No 1. Not attending socials because you don’t have anyone to go with
You may feel a bit awkward at first, but that’s what socials are all about – meeting other students, networking and finding interesting people with whom you just click! It’s the last week you’ve got before autumn term starts, so make the most out of it! Whether it’s wild nights out, or movie marathons in with the housemates, find time to enjoy yourself and relish every minute of it!
No 2. Don’t let the rain ruin your day
My biggest piece of advice to students is to remember that the weather, especially here in Essex, is totally unpredictable. That doesn’t mean that you have to go home every time it starts raining! Just grab your umbrella and share it with someone who forgot theirs – this is a great way to meet a new friend!
No 3. Don’t wait until the last minute to take action
The longer you sit in your dorm room and do nothing, the more lonely and upset you will feel. Join as many societies as you want, play a new sport, do something that you never thought you would, and you’ll have the time of your life!
So, as the next Welcome Week approaches and all you new students arrive, remember my advice and know that no matter how lonely you might feel to begin with, you will find your feet and make some amazing friends and memories. I promise!