Interviewers: Joint Project – Aleya Aziz Marzuki, Richard Rother
This week, as our first-years wait in bated breath for the incoming Fresher’s Week, we thought we’d ease their suffering a little by asking second and third-years to describe their experiences and give event recommendations.
Join us as we sit down with Angie Ren, Lewis Cox, Poppy Williams and Leanne Goodman while they relate their experiences during a week that is infamous for causing sleepless nights and drunken mornings.
Or does it?
Do you remember enjoying Fresher’s Week? (be honest now!)
Lewis: I quite enjoyed Fresher’s Week. I didn’t partake in any of the clubbing activities (I’m not really into that scene) but I did enjoy most of the department organised psychology activities and meeting lots of new people.
Poppy: I think there is an expectation that Fresher’s Week is amazing, but I personally found it quite overwhelming. Although I did have fun and overall had a good time, there were so many events on and new people to meet that sometimes it got a bit too much.
Leanne: My Fresher’s Week may have been slightly different from your typical university student – I’m not a massive drinker, so I don’t tend to do all the pubs and clubs that others do when they come to university. On Fresher’s Week in my first year I had one big night of drinking and that was enough for me. Not drinking doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy Fresher’s Week though! My favourite thing about it is all the events happening that do not revolve around alcohol. There is also a lot of scope for enjoyment outside of drinking. UCLU organises so many events for new and returning students, including Give It A Go activities, the Welcome Fair, tours and trips, and the first society get-togethers. That alternative side of Fresher’s Week is what I enjoy most, as it allows you to try new things, meet new people, and generally feel involved with campus life.
What did you enjoy most and what event(s) would you recommend not missing?
Angie: As I am not a party animal my answer is going to be very boring: never miss the Fresher’s Fair. This is where all UCLU societies would gather and introduce themselves to you. You probably wouldn’t like to lead a uni life of running from lecture to lecture all day, so UCLU societies are there for you! You will experience fantastic activities, and get to know lots of awesome people in societies. I personally enjoyed it when I joined the UCL photo society. They held photo walks which enabled me to explore London alongside newfound friends.
Lewis: Whilst I didn’t attend any of the multitudes of clubbing activities, I did particularly enjoy the welcome fair (free pizza!). Although the queuing is perhaps a tad long I would definitely recommend attending, particularly as one can investigate all the societies they may wish to join.
Poppy: I really enjoyed the Fresher’s Ball which was held at Ministry of Sound, but would also say that the fresher’s night at Koko is worth going to.
Leanne: In my second year during Freshers I went to the first Baking Society meeting, which I really enjoyed. After a summer of watching Great British Bake Off I was very keen to start baking and to be around other people who were doing the same, so the Baking Society sounded perfect for me. For the first meeting, baking was encouraged, but completely optional, although I think that most people had baked something. I’d never seen so much cake in my life! I would definitely recommend being a member of the Baking Society in general, but I would at least go to their first meeting if you have even a slight interest in baked goods and good food. (Be warned – you won’t need to eat dinner beforehand.) One event that I wouldn’t miss any year is the Welcome Fair. Going early is probably best, as the queues are very long (and there’s also more free stuff at the beginning), but if you don’t get in one day then you can always go the next day … or alternatively, just go twice.
Are there any events exclusive to the psychology department that you recommend attending?
Angie: Don’t miss lectures by the psychology department in Fresher’s Week. I know it sounds nerdy, but attending these lectures will help you avoid loads of problems in the future. You will learn details about your first year courses, assessment, exams, and etcetera. You will also learn how to access to the resources/assistance you might need in the future.
Lewis: I’d really recommend attending any of the events organised by PsychSoc. I personally made many new friends on the pub crawl that they had organised (drinking is a great social lubricant) and began to feel like I really belonged.
Poppy: I would definitely recommend going on the Psychology pub-crawl, as it was a great way to meet course mates in a more relaxed atmosphere, speak to older years about their experiences at UCL, all whilst being shown the good places near uni to drink!
Leanne: Last year the Psychology Society held a meal and a movie event after the main induction week. A few of us went to a restaurant before going back to Bedford Way to watch A Beautiful Mind. I really enjoyed this as it gave me a chance to catch up with a couple of people that I already knew, and to meet new first years. The year before the society also did a costume party where those who attended were encouraged to dress up as a famous psychology figure. Trying to guess whom everyone was dressed as was very entertaining. There were a lot of Freuds and Stanford Prison guards!
If you could repeat Fresher’s Week, what event would you absolutely avoid going to? If none, is there anything you would have done differently?
Angie: I cannot think of anything that I would avoid, but if I could repeat it, I would definitely talk to more people in the first week and make more friends.
Lewis: If I could repeat Fresher’s Week I would probably attend a couple of the club events. Whilst I’m not the biggest fan of it, it is definitely a great way to meet people. Additionally, playing ‘never have I ever’ at pre-drinks is always fun.
Poppy: There isn’t one event that I would avoid going to, but I do remember the fresher’s fair was absolutely packed and we queued for almost an hour to get in, and all the information was online anyway so it’s not the end of the world if you miss out things whilst you’re there.
Leanne: In my first year I went to a Neon Party at The Coronet with a few people in my hall. We had all arrived there in good time, but the queue was massive. This was a ticketed event, so we didn’t expect that it would be so overcrowded. When we did finally get in we were somewhat overwhelmed by the number of people on the main level. If you had fallen over in there, you wouldn’t be getting out any time soon! My friend and I decided that we would get our faces painted and see how we felt after that, but as it turned out, we weren’t feeling it. In the end we just decided to go back to our halls instead. I suppose then that I wouldn’t recommend some of the ticketed club nights advertised before Fresher’s Week, although I also recognise that these are a rite of passage for many first years and even students returning to university. I guess that if you’re certain you’ll enjoy them, then you should go, but otherwise I wouldn’t recommend them.
Is what you experienced at all representative of the rest of the academic year?
Angie: In some aspects, yes. Fresher’s week was representative of my first year. I remained good friends with people I met during the first week. However, during the week, there were no real course lectures or labs, so it was less stressful compared to the rest of the year.
Lewis: Other than the safety information, what I experienced was pretty representative of the whole year. Introductory lectures were similar to those we experienced later in courses.
Poppy: Fresher’s week was more manic than the rest of the year, and actually nights out got more fun as the year went on as you meet your real friends and there is less pressure to enjoy them.
Leanne: With respect to the number of activities happening, I would say that Fresher’s is slightly busier than other times of the year, but there is always so much happening within UCLU that you’ll always be able to find something to do. There are far fewer Give It A Go events later in the academic year, but that tends to be because people gravitate towards societies in their first few weeks of university after trying out activities while they can. I would also say that you get more time during the rest of the academic year to look at things outside of the events advertised in Fresher’s Week, such as working with the union or volunteering. That’s what I focused on doing last year, and I found myself doing things like teaching secondary school students, helping to build a new peer support group, and assisting with an experiment in an underground dungeon.
What advice would you give to freshers in making the most of their time in first-year?
Angie: You don’t want to waste your tuition fees, so go to lectures as much as you can.
If you want to work right after graduation, it might be a good idea to take time to get work experience (e.g. part-time jobs), and attend career events, which are held frequently throughout the year.
There will be lots of volunteering opportunities at the UCLU Volunteering Fair held seasonally in the quad. Do check it out!
From time to time there will be inspiring guest speakers who come to UCL. It is a great way to learn interesting things, to get to know awesome people, and to broaden your horizons.
Lewis: I’d give a few pieces of advice that I think probably would have helped me (although I guess they may be fairly obvious):
Don’t be afraid to try something new.
Talk to everyone – although you won’t click with everyone, it will definitely make life easier.
Try and register with a GP as soon as possible , you don’t want to be caught ill and have to put up with it for an extended period of time when you could be studying or socializing.
Poppy: Try and join in as much as possible, but if you’re not having a good time, or feel like going out, don’t force yourself to. There will be plenty of other opportunities! Try and go to the lectures because they really do help, oh and don’t leave lab reports until the last minute- all nighters are not fun!
Leanne: I wouldn’t say that you should be unconcerned about the academic side of things, because obviously that’s the main reason you come to UCL. However, in your later (and busier!) years it becomes very clear that your first year is the best time to get involved with university life, whether that’s through societies, volunteering, etc. Make an effort to join a society that interests you, or to volunteer, or to at least do something outside of your degree that you feel you would benefit from, because that’s really where the fullest university experience comes from – combining the academic side with extra enrichment. At the end of the day, you’re not only here for an education, but to enjoy yourself while learning.
Editors Note: Here are some links for events and activities that may make your fresher’s week worthwhile http://uclu.org/services/events-activities/give-it-go
We’d like to extend our thanks to our four interviewees!