In retrospect…

No freshers’ week experience is the same, so whether you’re drinking or sinking, take heart – you’re not alone

Tom Scott

Current President, University of York Students’ Union

To tell the truth, I don’t have that many memories of my first week – not because I was drunk, but because it all went by in such a flurry of activity.

I remember being bewildered by all the information that was thrown at me: the advice leaflets, the offers, the information about anything and everything that was going on around campus. I can remember taking my first walk around the city, with its dozens of tiny alleys and streets; it took me the best part of a year to work out how streets were connected, and even now I’m not quite sure of all of their names. I also definitely remember getting Freshers’ Flu. Be prepared for it. With thousands of students carrying new and interesting viruses, your immune system is in for a workout.

If it all gets a bit too much, remember that there are many, many avenues of help and support available, and you should use them. There was at least one point during my first week where I should have called on them – and I’d have been better off if I had.

I had no idea that I’d still be here five years later, writing as the President of YUSU, dispensing advice to this year’s new students. Really, I had no idea what I was going to do. I grew up so much during my first year: I changed from being anxious and fairly socially awkward to being confident and only slightly socially awkward. I joined societies, met so many people, had the best three years of my life and then stuck around and had two even better ones.

For those of you who are fresh from school (and it’s worth remembering that a good number of our new students aren’t), you really are about to set off on what’s likely to be the biggest adventure you’ve ever had. The person who graduates in three, or four, or five years’ time won’t be the same person you are now. So here’s the best advice I can give you: keep a diary. Write about what you’ve done, even if it’s just as a few notes, when you have a little spare time. Because that other version of yourself, years from now — they’ll want to look back and remember where they came from.

Emma Roncile

President of the University of York 21+ Association for Mature Students

I quickly learnt in Freshers Week that the popular student stereotype is often surprisingly accurate. But I was different. I was already 24, a fresher who was married and already finding it very difficult to stay up after midnight, or drink more than three glasses of wine before falling asleep on the sofa. I was a mature student.

Living off campus was the biggest hurdle I faced, and after an initial welcome talk for us, I felt that the University abandoned me in an alien world of poster sales and Viking Raids. I found myself hanging around campus, hoping to bump into somebody I recognised, which was unlikely, as I had only met a handful of people. After a while, I realised that if I wanted to make friends, I would have to make the effort myself, despite how difficult and uncomfortable it felt.

I attended a seminar welcome meeting, and afterwards I bravely persuaded four other students to come for coffee with me as I had nowhere else to go for the three hours in between meetings; these girls are now my best friends at University.

I had to forfeit most of the social events in Freshers Week, but I came to realise that I don’t need to participate in every aspect of student life to feel a part of the university. I now know that there is no such thing as a standard student, and I wouldn’t trade my time at university for anybody else’s.

Anthony Horowitz

Author of over 50 novels including the Alex Rider series and York alumnus. This is him writing in the Nouse October 1974 Freshers’ edition

I would imagine that the first – and the last – days at university are the worst of the lot. In the last, we are sat down with our final papers, and if the pressure is hard enough, might well end up sobbing our eyes out. Yet the first few days are almost as bad; I spent most of them sobbing myself.

The torture these days of being a fresher takes the form of excruciating loneliness… There is one young lad in our college who still has to play bar football by himself. Another in Langwith once told me, a pathetic tear in his young blue eye (he has only one), that his only friends on campus were the ducks. But we cannot really blame the university for this sorry state of affairs. On my first night here, Vanbrugh organised a terrific party for us, but I was sadly unable to meet anyone as the excessively loud music swamped any chances of conversation. At the next party, I did better. For the 80p that it cost, I managed to make 8 friends, although when I commented to them that at only 10p each they seemed good value, they looked upset.

However, I firmly believe that I have a good friend in the Vice-Chancellor. When he spoke at that first meeting and asked people to invite him to tea, I could swear that he had me directly in his eye. Also there was a charming person in his third year at the Society Mart. who was ever so friendly as he persuaded me to pay 50p to join the R.S.P.C.B. (Birds) of which I had never heard before. My supervisor is also a charming man; it was so kind of him to spare me one and a half minutes of his precious time, and I look forward to seeing him again next year.

Inspite of these delightful people I must confess to a slight loneliness. I haven’t yet heard from the R.S.P.C.B., and my tea has got cold waiting for the V.C. In fact, I must admit that the only people to come into my room since I have been here have been the cleaners – oh, and someone who came while I was out. I would really love to meet this visitor. Particularly as he has stolen all my money, my record player and room fixtures. In fact, if there is anyone reading this article (if the editor pubishes it. He is awfully nice, but I wish he would stop dictating my article for me) – if you have a moment to spare, just a minute or two, please pop in and visit me in my room – H/331 in Vanbrugh – just for a minute… please.

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