The rainbow bunting fluttered spiritedly above me as I made my way across University Square. I navigated my way through the hustle and bustle of students, new and old. A soundscape of music, chatter and footsteps rang in my ear. I could smell food coming from a building I’d later find out to be named ‘the Refec’. Then, I was struck briefly by a statue that can only be described as bacon-like.
It was finally here. Freshers’ Week. I had heard the stories – those of merriment, debauchery and reckless abandon – and I was ready to embrace it all. All I needed were friends, but how does one acquire mates at Leeds Uni?
You can get the ball rolling before you arrive. Facebook may have been monopolised by our mums, but it still has its uses. Make sure you join all the relevant groups and pages such as Leeds Students’ Group and the Official LUU Leeds Student Community. There is also LeedsFess, our infamous confessions page – you will be sure to find a conversation starter there. Aside from Facebook groups, it’s a good idea to set up a group chat with the people in your accommodation. This will give you a chance to snoop on their socials and gauge what you have in common – just be careful not to like their photos from back in 2013! Another tip, if possible, would be to familiarise yourself with campus so getting lost is one less thing to worry about. Reducing anxiety will make navigating the social scene a tiny bit easier.
Of course, you may not be living in halls or other student accommodation. You may be a commuter – a somewhat forgotten breed of student. I would know because I was one. You may not have a ready-made set of flatmates, but it doesn’t mean you can’t create many, wonderful friendships. Attend campus events and introduce yourself to everyone you meet. You’re bound to find someone who will let you crash on their sofa every so often. In fact, a note to all freshers would be to attend the induction meetings. This is where you will meet your coursemates. Ask one or more of them to go for coffee afterwards because they will come in handy. Who else are you going to stagger into lectures with at nine am?
Freshers’ Week is an exciting time with plenty of opportunities to meet new people. The Welcome Fair, running from 20 – 23 September, offers an introduction to the 300+ clubs and societies here at Leeds. From sport to theatre to Quidditch, there will certainly be something for you, whether you want to nurture an existing passion or try something new – university is for experimenting after all (wink wink)! Societies are great places to meet like-minded people, develop skills and temporarily escape from coursework. Moreover, there is often the opportunity to be on a society’s committee which works wonders for your CV! Most societies will hold both in-person and virtual welcome events, as well as a mixture of drinking and non-drinking socials. If you are partial to a drop of Dutch courage, check out Leeds Union Events to keep updated on upcoming club nights such as the legendary Fruity (a personal favourite) which is held downstairs in the union. In addition to Fruity, there are other events such as Bingo Lingo (22 Sept/29 Sept) and the Student Colour Run (3 Oct) – all fun occasions to meet new people and make friends!
When the dust settles on Freshers’ Week, seminars and lectures will begin. Before your seminar tutor arrives is a great time to get chatting with people. Start by asking, “Did you do this week’s reading?” and bond over your mutual unpreparedness. Instead of sitting alone during lectures, ask to sit next to somebody. Others will also be looking to make friends, so maybe approach people who look shy or nervous. Then you will assuredly have people to accompany you to course balls and Otley runs!
Stay open minded, venture outside of your comfort zone and remember that everyone is in the same boat. We have had a pandemic to contend with and several lockdowns. We have become accustomed to isolation, so don’t worry if your social battery is a little low. Friendships take time to build. This is a fresh start for all of us. Even after 3 years, I feel nervous, but I’m excited to start a new chapter. Who knows, maybe I will see you in the Refec. However, if you see me on the Fruity dancefloor… you didn’t!