Which Way UK: Freshers' week

Meet, mingle and find your footing
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The Independent Online

If there is one UK university and college tradition that will help you settle in quickly, it's Freshers' Week. It might be a whole seven days or just a few, but it will be packed with opportunities for you to meet people and join clubs or societies - some of the most amazing variety.

You don't go to university or college just to study. Part of the experience is meeting new people and discovering new ideas, and for international students who are being transplanted into a culture that will be very different from their own, such experiences are magnified.

Freshers' Week is the beginning of your assimilation into the UK culture. Typically, there will be special events laid on all week and hosted by students who are already established in the university or college. There might be parties - possibly fancy dress ones, so pack your Batman outfit - or get-togethers in the bar (you can drink non-alcoholic stuff if you prefer), or whatever the students have decided to put on. There will almost certainly be a Freshers' Fair, which is a big exhibition of the university or college's clubs and societies, which could include sports clubs, drama clubs, choirs, orchestras, mountaineering clubs, diving clubs, art clubs, the student newspaper, the student radio station, the fine wines society, the beer society, the art society... the list can go on and on.

In universities and colleges where there is a large international contingent, there will be societies for countries, regions and ethnic groups. You can't work all the time, and clubs and societies are all part of the fun of university or college life, so why not sign up? Just don't be tempted to join too many!

Freshers' Week will rarely involve any academic work, but you may meet up with your tutors informally and find out where you will be taught. It's also a useful time to check out the libraries and areas specialist to your course, get any security passes you might need and stock up on passport photos, which you will need for various application forms. You can find machines all around the UK that will produce your pictures in about three minutes for a few pounds.

Your first week will probably go by in a whirl - it does for UK-based students so it might be even more intense an experience for an international student, but it does all settle down in the end.

This is the week to sort out any problems you might have with your accommodation, whether it's something as straightforward as asking your accommodation supervisor to sort out a blown light bulb or something more complicated such as moving out of a room you don't like.

Remember, don't sit in your room worrying about what's outside. Go and knock on other people's doors and introduce yourself to the neighbours - they're probably dying to meet you and you might just find a new friend with whom to share your university or college experience.