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27 September, 2006

Best days

Our next intake of first year students arrive this weekend; depending on the Colleges to which they've been assigned, arrival day will be Saturday or Sunday.  If I was a Fresher (horrible thought...), I'd definitely prefer the Sunday arrival: one day less.

For those unfamiliar with the UK system, Freshers' Week is an additional period before second- and third-years arrive for the start of the 'real' term, during which there are no scheduled lectures.
I loathed mine, and each year I sympathise with the latest sufferers. It's all so pointless, and is an awful introduction to University life. All the stress of leaving home, then one is dumped in a breeze-block cell with absolutely nothing to do for 60-70% of the waking day (the rest involves excessive alcohol and people one will spend subsequent months trying to avoid), for a whole week.

There are certain administrative tasks to be completed, such as registering for courses and paying fees, but they don't require a full week – a long weekend would be more than enough for the essentials, and the rest could be worked around lectures. It'd be so much better if students arrived at University to actually begin their student life, rather than to endure some sort of Limbo.
Personally, I find it (marginally) easier to meet people whilst doing things and thereby having natural conversational openings, rather than having to force small talk with random strangers. Almost all the longer-term friends I made were people on my corridor or on my course, so the artificial initial 'opportunity' to socialise with others was unproductive.

Donald MacLeod at the Guardian agrees.

Before anyone sneers about 'spoilsports': you're missing the point. I'm not suggesting that the drinking and partying shouldn't happen each evening (though my personal inclination would be to stay away), I'm merely saying it should happen during term time, when there's something to occupy the new students' days too.


I think it all depends what use is made of Freshers Week. At Bradford we don't have the staff to handle enrolment in a few days - we started last Monday and finished today - so we need to spread it out.

During the daytime the student union have big events every day - a big welcome meeting on the Monday, a volunteering fair on the Tuesday, a 'give it a go day' on the Wednesday to get students more involved in sports and extra-curricular activities, the sports and societies fair on the Thursday (where all of the sports teams and societies can recruit freshers who don't know better) and the Freshers Fair on the Friday. There's also the evening events too, of course.

The university itself also offers various events, such as trips to Ikea for international students and tours of the campus and city.

Posted by Neil T. at September 27, 2006 07:50 PM

Same here, more-or-less (the Colleges run events too), but none of them occupy full days I'm sure the same amount could be fitted into 3-4 full days. For example, Freshers' Fair as a whole operates over two days, but each student might experience it for 1-2 hours, maybe even less. It'd be quite possible for students to attend lectures on the same day.

Fair point about the time taken to enrol people, but that's largely an admin issue which could, and should, be streamlined. Not much could be done about the need for some students to discuss specific options with course tutors, but accommodation and overall registration with the University are mostly processed beforehand, and we have an online fees payment system.
Maybe there was a time when admin procedures required a full week, but I don't think anyone within Uni admin would claim Freshers' Week needs to be that long nowadays.

There is one big difference between the current situation and my own, which is bound to have affected my experience.
Nowadays, with internet connections in all student rooms, people could, in theory, 'escape' the boredom or remain in contact with friends elsewhere, but in 1990, students didn't even own computers, and my accommodation block had one payphone between ~50 residents. Freshers' Week really was an isolated void in which one could swap 'A' Level results with strangers over a pint or, er,... that was it, really.
I'm sure it was fine for outgoing, sporty, alcoholics-in-training, but for the rest of us it was ****ing torture.

Posted by NRT at September 27, 2006 08:57 PM

Well unless they've changed things in the past two years the internet connection doesn't help. Last time I did the freshers week thing at Lancaster (MSc starting 10/04) we couldn't use our connections until we registered with ISS, which we couldn't do until we'd formally registered with uni. So it wasn't until Weds or Thurs that I had the net, the cause of much stress...

PS, I can see your point, but on balance I enjoyed both my freshers weeks. Undergrad was being let off the leash, meeting people from various parts of England, drinking a fair bit, probably more enjoyable than most of my first year. Postgrad was really genuinely good, I was a much better, older, wiser person, as were the people I was with, and meeting people from around the *world* this time.

Posted by Jan B at September 28, 2006 06:46 PM

Dunno about the student internet connection setup I'm not in ISS, and hadn't thought of the registration issues. It's worse than I thought. :(
Not that I'd advocate people hiding in their rooms and avoiding the whole thing, anyway. I'm only talking about filling the 'dead' hours when one wouldn't reasonably expect to be out sociaIising.

It's great that that you enjoyed your Freshers' Weeks, but I still have to ask: couldn't you have done all the things you mention during the term? Did the additional weeks add anything specific?

Posted by NRT at September 28, 2006 08:21 PM

The additional week didn't add anything, other than having a week of no pressure of getting up for lectures etc (and of course it allows you time to find everything both on campus and in town). But an extra week at uni, is preferable to one with the folks at home.

Posted by Jan B at September 28, 2006 10:24 PM
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