Making Freshers' Week More Inclusive

Looking back on this year’s Freshers’ week, most of us will remember a crazy, fun and enjoyable experience. Yet there are some people who will have had difficulty finding their place in all the excitement. Some students don’t instantly bond with their new flatmates. Some students feel too old for the whole experience. And if you’re a student with children, well, you’d be forgiven for thinking you have no place in Freshers’ week. It can be a daunting and lonely experience that effectively isolates students from mainstream student life. The purpose of Freshers’ week is to welcome all students toLeeds, and show that they are part of a community that caters for them, whatever their background. It should also be a chance to experience how fun life at University can be. So when we access the success of Freshers’ week it is important to ask whether all our students feel welcomed and included.

Luckily, a lot of this is done already through our Union’s executive officers. We know that Charlie Hopper, as Equality and Diversity Officer has done exceptional work to involve International Students by setting up events where they can meet new people, such as ‘Global Cafe.’ We also know that the Welfare Officer Katie Siddall is there to make sure students with personal difficulties get the help and support they need, even when they feel as if they have nowhere else to go.

However, it is not solely the responsibility of the Unionto help these students feel included. During Freshers’ week, the whole student population has a responsibility to look out for one another. If you’re having a brilliant time, that’s fantastic, but keep an eye out on your new colleagues to make sure they are too.  It doesn’t take much effort to notice when someone doesn’t feel included, but neither does helping them out when they struggle to fit in. A little effort to help and support each other can make everyone’s week a lot easier. But more than that, it’ll set us up for a fantastic year too.

For those students who may have felt a little left out during this year’s Freshers’ week, it is important to remember that the ‘Freshers’ experience’ isn’t the be all and end all of student life.  As a third year student I can confidently say from my own experiences that Freshers will probably have much more fun at university once they’ve settled in properly and made some more  solid friendships than the ones made during the first week. Don’t worry if Freshers’ week didn’t live up to the hype, there’s plenty more time to enjoy student life and plenty of support available if ever it is needed.

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