Your Guide To Freshers' Week
Many of you will soon be heading off to university so we asked some of our lovely writers who have walked this path before you to reflect on their fresher's week experience and share some wisdom with you all. We hope it brings you energy, joy and support as you step into this new chapter!
Starting university can be overwhelming; you are suddenly faced with a new city, a whole new set of people, and a new "home." The thought of moving on from everything you know might sound terrifying, leaving you feeling slightly lost and anxious, perhaps even insecure. But thankfully, our security comes from a steadfast Father who will never leave you or forsake you. This is such a wonderful truth and comfort that we can rely on daily.
Constantly remind yourself that even in a place where you feel like no one really knows you, you are deeply, truly KNOWN and LOVED. God says in Jeremiah 31:3, "I have loved you with an everlasting love." For you are known and loved by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. So, firstly be secure in your identity that you are a precious daughter of the King. That is what matters.
Challenge yourself on who you are trying to please: God or man? You don't have to prove yourself to anyone, you don't have to feel anxious about whether people will accept you, as God sees everything and couldn't love you more. If your aim at university is to seek God's heart and will, I believe you will flourish at university, walking in His plans for your life.
I didn’t become a Christian until my third year at university so my freshers' week experience was probably very different to a lot of Christians. In my first two years, freshers' week meant going out every night, drinking too much and spending the day trying to form new friendships. For those two years, freshers' week was fun and exciting but I also felt lost and purposeless.
By third year, I had become a Christian and had a relationship with God. Many of you are blessed enough to have a relationship with Him already and others of you may still be in the process of discovering your relationship with Him. My advice is the same: find time for yourself every day during freshers' week to find out more about our Heavenly Father and his purpose for our lives.
Each time you feel overwhelmed just remember that He has placed you where you are and that He is beside you. I found that having this perspective in my third year during freshers' week re-centered me every single day and that alone time gave me new energy.
Freshers' week? Amazing. For me, it was right off the back of my Summer after A Levels and I was absolutely BUZZING for it! (if a little nervous). I remember the first few days consisted of jotting down dozens of people's names, meeting and greeting as many people as possible. Retelling my ‘Durham stats’ i.e: ‘what’s your course/college/year + where are you from?’ etc., all became second nature. I was excited and trying hard to be myself.
If I could tell my fresher self one thing now it would be this: there is more time after freshers' week! Don’t panic or rush with people, there's no need to figure out who exactly will be your best friend for life at this point SLOW. DOWN. Take time and really listen to people.
Freshers' week can be self-indulgent, you are putting yourself out there to new people and signing up for things that feed into the person you want to become at university. So, by all means think on and make good choices with that, do set yourself up well (and know you don’t have to commit to every little thing you jot your email down for!) First though, aim to think of others; LISTEN to what they have to say, if you need to - step back from dominating conversations (if you’re like me you might default to that with nerves!) but hearing people is important.
Be present too. Facetime is a wonderful thing, but it’s not necessarily for freshers' week. For that week, try and leave home at home and the people who you miss too, they know as you do that you need to be where you are and be allowed to settle in.
Don’t expect freshers' to be the best week of your life. Don’t expect to meet your best friends for life in freshers' week. Instead, do pray that you rely on God’s strength and not your own to empower you to do things you’ve never done before and share the gospel as well as your life (1 Thessalonians 2:8) with new friends. Relying on God like this means that every day you become less overwhelmed and more thankful for the time you have to meet new friends, discover coffee shops and make a bucket list of things to explore in a new city.
I was personally really blessed in freshers' week to meet some great Christian friends through the Christian Union and Fusion’s church search. But I did still struggle going back to a flat of very different people to myself and settling into sleeping in a new empty room. If insecurities or feelings of loneliness start to overwhelm you in freshers' week, remember that as Christians we know the Holy Spirit lives in us. He is with us wherever we go. And by God’s grace, He is our strength within weakness.
2 Corinthians 12.9 is a helpful reminder; where Jesus says ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ A prayer my godmother taught me before leaving for university is, ‘God please work in me, God work through me and God work despite me.’ It was a prayer which I clung to during Fresher’s week as it reminded me that it was ok to feel overwhelmed, lonely or weak because God works in and through us despite our weakness.
Fresher’s week ~ perhaps one of the most crazy, fun, overwhelming, bizarre weeks I’ve ever experienced. While there’s nothing quite like it, it’s there for you to ENJOY - so embrace it, and have fun. It’s a week you’ll look back and laugh at - the people you met, the people you didn’t meet, the conversations you had, the adventures you got up to.
With the excitement and intensity of trying to find a new BFF, deciding they’re not like your old BFF, joining societies, making your room look insta-perfect, finding your bearings in a new city, and realising you’re somehow supposed to complete a degree, the week can be a full-on, fast-paced blur and flurry of emotions. So, if you’re a pre-fresher, here’s my advice: take some time to stop, think about, and pray for your week ahead of time.
What are your non-negotiables?
How much will you drink? What are you up for/not up for? What societies do you definitely want to try out? What church will you try out on the Sunday of freshers' week?
How can you (naturally) let people know you’re a Christian from the get-go?
The quicker it's out in the open, the easier! For example, including some Christian stuff when chatting about what you got up to in the summer, sharing that you want to try out churches amidst club/society discussions.
What sort of room do you want to have?
If you want people to feel they can come in at any time, bringing a door stop and biscuits is a good shout! If you like your own space, make sure you use your room as a sanctuary.
Taking some time to stop and think about these things can be really helpful, so that in the fun & frenzy of fresher’s week your non-negotiables, and those things that are really important to you, stand firm. Deciding to go to church on Sunday of freshers' week in advance makes it easier to say no when everyone else decides to go on a spontaneous night out (say no to FOMO!) Deciding your drinking limit ahead of time makes it easier to say no when your new mates start a new round of drinking games.
Freshers' is an incredible week, and it will be over before you know it. Have fun, embrace the awkward, and don’t compromise yourself for the sake of a new BFF, they’re not going anywhere anyway...
My freshers' week experience was great! I met people who I would now count amongst my closest friends - people who I nervously introduced myself to in halls or at church and then proceeded to spend three of the best years sharing all the highs and lows of uni life with (usually with a cup of tea in hand). What a joy!
Be excited that there will be likeminded people living and studying with you. At the same time, don't fret if these people don't appear immediately, give it time, they’ll come! I found that guarding my time spent with God was a struggle so my advice would be to make time for reading God's Word and praying a priority from the get-go. It will be hard, there will be various things fighting for your time perhaps in a way that you have never experienced before – treasure your time with God even and especially in Fresher’s Week.
Freshers' Week can be overwhelming; there might be times when you're completely exhausted of meeting people, finding your way around and just generally being away from everything you're used to. It is in these moments that, as Christians, we can rest knowing that we are not defined by how many nights out we are going to or how many extra readings we've already done or how sparkling our personality is, but by a God who went to the cross so that we can live life to the fullest on earth and for eternity. We are then free to embrace all that Freshers' Week has to offer with a new perspective.
By all means throw yourself into it - meet all the people, sign up to all the societies, claim all the freebies. But don't be afraid to take some time out; have a nap, go for a walk, spend some time putting up photos in your room. God delights in you doing these things for his glory (1 Corinthians 10:31).
And; top tip: mark your kitchen stuff with nail polish (lasted three years?!) and take cake (lemon drizzle is a winner, you will be a friend magnet)...