Freshers’ week is, no doubt, already an entry in your diary that you don’t want to miss. It’s a time of fun, frivolity, frolics; however, it is also a time of organisation, observation and order. Here are 17 things to remember, recognise and – we really need to stop with this alliteration malarkey?
1. Sign up for the union
Despite what you read in the news, unions aren’t all about picketing. Sometimes they’re about a really useful discount card, help with pretty much any problems you may have with your life and a bargain priced bar.
2. Take all free things
People will hand things to you. Take these things. Say, “thank you,” to the thing-giver. Despite how rich you might initially feel when you get your first loan instalment, you are about to be broke for three to six years. Free pasta sauce, condoms and toiletries are definitely not to be sniffed at (literally, in some cases, but beggars can’t be choosers).
3. Set up a bank account
Work out which is the best student account for you and go and open one. If you have a bank account already but it isn’t a student one, you can change it to get benefits such as an interest-free overdraft. Visit www.moneysavingexpert.com, which compares deals offered by all major banks.
4. Buy yourself a plant
A bonsai tree is almost obligatory. It will, however, die, so get two. Many unions host plant and poster sales during freshers’ week and beyond.
5. Go on a crawl
Socially speaking, it’s best to crawl before you can walk. Traditionally, this has meant a tour of your new local pubs and bars, organised by your student union, hall of residence, or society. Occasionally, you might even do it in fancy dress. But if you don’t find the idea of literally crawling home appealing, some universities are now organising “coffee crawls”, which allow you to meet people and see your new town or city even if alcohol isn’t your cup of tea.
6. Sign up for free-choice modules early
Whether you want to get a taster of another subject you’re interested in, boost your marks with something you know that you’re good at or improve your foreign language skills, the free-choice module offered by many universities represents an opportunity. Don’t do what Which Way did, and have so much fun that you forget to sign up until everything worth taking is full, leaving you to gen up on medieval kitchen studies.
7. Don’t set up any store cards
With those rates of interest, you might as well offer to go and work on the till as slave labour.
8. Look at the reading list
But don’t necessarily buy all the books at once! It’ll cost a fortune; your tutors will be able to tell you which are the most important for the following week. Others you can refer to in the library. Bonus points if you actually do any of the reading during freshers’ week.
9. Get yourself a doctor
Ideally do this before you’ve got rampant freshers’ flu and can barely get your weak, fun-ravaged body out of the house. Your union or halls can help you find the nearest GP, or show some initiative and go on www.nhs.uk to find your nearest stethoscope-wearer.
10. Invest in a 16-25 railcard
It saves you a third off rail journeys. A similar deal is available for coaches, if you really like a bargain. Visit www.16-25railcard.co.uk. As quickly as you can.
11. Alert your parents to your continued survival
AKA, phone home. Or send a text, e-mail or carrier pigeon. While you are busy living it up, your mother is pacing the floors, imagining you bleeding to death after an attack by yobbish seagulls (yes, even in Birmingham; some parents worry in a very creative manner). It doesn’t take long to let them know you’re OK and, indeed, having the time of your life.
12. Learn first aid basics
Sounds boring until you need it, but this is a really invaluable use of your time. St John Ambulance offer courses around the country; check out their website,www.sja.org.uk, for events or to download advice you can listen to on your iPod.
13. Lock up your valuables
Freshers’ week is like Christmas for thieves: naive students wandering around with loads of cash and valuables on them equate to rich pickings. Plan your routes in advance when you’re going out, lock doors and windows when you leave, and keep anything that might get you mugged out of sight. You even need to be on your guard on moving-in day: with lots of people coming and going, and cars left open, it’s really hard to spot a thief unless they’re in a black-and white hooped top, holding a bag marked “Swag”.
14. Go on a naked bike ride
Or a midnight walk in your underwear, or (as we peel off the “limited-clothes” theme like a bad Mackintosh) a group rollerblade session, iPod rave or pillow fight. Many campuses are in cities with their own great events going on; check them out.
15. Steal a good souvenir
Obviously, we cannot advocate theft of public property and in any case, the traffic cone is so passé. But for some strange reason, a stolen freshers’ ball poster is an hilarious and exciting thing to have for many months after the actual event.
16. Volunteer for duty
No, not to get the beers in, but to do something in your new community. Be it reading with school children or painting church halls, www.do-it.org has a database of opportunities near you, while Time Bank, www.timebank.org.uk, is also excellent.
17. Go to the freshers’ ball
This really is an experience to remember; a chance to catch up with all your new friends from around campus and get stuck in to a wide variety of entertainment, from fairground rides to foam parties to washed-up pop stars (think Jason Donovan, the Vengaboys and the Honeyz) --By Emma Bartley