Dear Freshers

Englishstudent living
Aberystwyth freshers fair (original photographer unknown)

Dear Freshers,  

Please don’t underestimate the huge undertaking you’ve embarked on. Moving to University is a very sudden change. You may have written every packing list, found the optimum route on Google Maps, and even planned out your first big shop - but the moment your parents pull away, you’ll probably think to yourself: Oh my God, I’m on my own.  Remember that everyone feels this way to some degree, even your super-outgoing flatmate who you’re sure has thirty-five best friends already and has never been shy a day in their life. Here are a few tips that should help you ease into university life, coming from somebody who has most definitely been there and bought the t-shirt. 

Firstly, you should go to the fresher’s fair. Even if you only nab yourself a free slice of Dominos and wander around, perusing the many societies, clubs, and volunteering projects Aber Uni offers will give you a sense of where your crowd lies. There will be a tent packed to the brim with stalls advertising groups for sports, arts, religions and spirituality - you name it and it’s (probably) there.  The fair will start with a quiet hour for anyone needing a calmer atmosphere, and throughout the day a diverse crowd of people will connect and chat about the hobbies and extra-curriculars they love.  For example, if you are someone who really loves reading fantasy books, why not check out the Book Club or the Fantasy and Sci-fi Society? Whatever your interests, you’ll find like-minded people at the fresher’s fair.  

Societies will really improve your university experience - I recommend trying out as many as you’d like to find your niche.  You may end up joining a few. They encourage you to ‘play hard’ while university motivates you to ‘work hard’, creating a work-life balance which will aid with the stress of classes and deadlines. I always find them good for my fellow procrastinators too, since if you’re out all night with CocSoc then you really do have to get that bit of research done before going out. Now, I know that while belonging to a community sounds really appealing, making the first step to that end is so difficult. Going to an event, maybe alone, where you know nobody at all, is incredibly nerve-wracking. However, those who run these societies know that they are a great place for freshers to meet friends. Committee members want you to feel comfortable at their events. They want to encourage you to chat and get to know each other whilst doing something fun. Every fresher there is in the exact same situation, and they would no doubt love to meet other freshers like yourself. You will almost certainly make friends at these events. 

While these societies will most likely show you the best places to go to in Aber, a little bit of exploration will help you get your bearings and bring you to some lovely places. For coffee enthusiasts, Coffee #1 and Starbucks (obviously) are great places to meet up. Little Devils, Sophie’s, and Home Café are great for lunch dates. Ystwyth Books and Bookshop by the Sea are havens for any readers. Then, of course, there are the pubs and clubs. I’d urge you to try as many cocktails at the Cambrian as you desire (or your weekly budget allows) and grab a ‘Gay Admiral’ at Downies Vaults on your next night out. Yoko’s is a must visit, for the tree in its centre if not the shots, and Harley’s is the beating heart of Aberystwyth’s nightlife. 

Because you’re now socialising like there’s no tomorrow, you will inevitably get fresher’s flu. Yes, it is just as brutal as everybody says it is. You will need gallons of Lemsip and mountains of tissues. Make sure you’re stocked up on all the flu relief essentials. Other than that, what works for me is honey and a slice of ginger in hot water. It won’t miraculously cure you, but it might bring you some joy in these harrowing times. Make sure you rest up or that cough will last for weeks.  

Finally, there’s the University stuff - the things you should probably do before you start studying. Your department will most likely hold some welcome events and, providing you haven’t fallen victim to fresher’s flu, you should probably make the effort to attend them. While making friends with your housemates and finding friends at societies is great, there’s nothing quite like that support bubble on your course. These are the people you’ll probably head to the library or do group presentations with. These people make up your academic community, and that’s just as important as your extra-curriculars. Also, when the time comes, you really must register on your student record before the deadline given by your department, or you won’t secure a place on your course. After that, why not take a library tour? Get acquainted with where the books for your course are, and the other services (such as printing and technology support) that the Hugh Owen Library offers. Then, if you’re up for it after all of this, maybe visit and register with the National Library. Personally, I love it in there. It gives all the scholarly dark academia vibes you could wish for, and it makes for a great change of scenery, especially during exam season. 

While there are a million more recommendations that I could give you, all of them pale in the face of one piece of advice: do your best and have fun. Nobody ever said University was easy. No matter your course or your personal situation, every single student has their highs and lows. Everybody’s rooting for you.