Next chapter: what being a fresher is all about

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Let’s set the scene: it’s late September, you’ve been dropped off in this tiny city of Durham so far north it’s basically Scotland. You’re looking around your sparse new room: you’re scared. Don’t despair just yet, before you know it your room will morph into a new home for you. But first things first: you’ll want to latch onto anyone that appears slightly interested in you. You want to claim them as “your friend”. You want them as your socialising rock – that’s fine, go for it! It’s easier to walk to lectures or breakfast with someone you quasi know rather than on your own at the start. They might introduce you to other freshers and you end up getting on better with them. Or you’re lucky enough to find the mates you want to be stuck with for the next 3/4 years straight off the bat. Or you stumble across that poor sod who lives in the middle of nowhere in your halls that is the VK to your Woodgate, that’s great! However you find your friends, and you will find your friends, don’t feel obligated to stay in close quarters to the people you first meet just because you met them first. It’s okay to find new people and grow a little distant with others. Don’t subject yourself to an okay friendship because you feel bad about leaving. Chances are they are probably doing the same and are also feeling a tinge of guilty about finding new friends too. Let’s not subject ourselves to unnecessary guilt about trying to find our place. (Obviously take this with a pinch of salt, no need to ditch an amazing friend in the hopes of “better”, or out of nowhere ghost a loyal pal).

Don’t subject yourself to an okay friendship because you feel bad about leaving

The next matter: you’re going to make mistakes. It is unavoidable; this is the first time your education is completely in your own hands. The bad news is you’re in control, but the good news is… you’re in control! You are the wind in your own sail. You start a module and find you hate the subject? Change. You start your course and want to explore more about a topic? Ask! Lecturers love to share reading material or point to modules further in the course that can satisfy your curiosity. You don’t like working Thursday evenings? Don’t work Thursday evenings. Change your schedule around your ability to work. This doesn’t mean not working when you don’t 100% feel like it, but it’s not forcing yourself to slave away in the library in the morning when you know you work best in the afternoon. And if you never got the chance to find out when or how you work best, now is your chance! Experiment, try different styles. Don’t stay stuck in an ‘okay’ system because you’re too scared to try something new that could work out better.

Challenge yourself. For some this may mean joining a choir, sports team, debate team, drama, or film society. For others it may be focusing on yourself. University gives you (maybe some much needed!) space from old friends and family to find what makes you tick. It can be just as challenging to learn about yourself as walking into a room full of people naked. If you tend to over extend yourself, do the opposite; consolidate your energy on what your priorities are. Don’t push yourself as much as you know you can? Put yourself out there, try something new.

Now you may have come to the end of this article and wonder: but what about the best college bar?! Or the best cafes and restaurants?! Well to that I say: find out. There is no shortage of opinions on which restaurants, cafes, and bars to try out and which to avoid. I think the best, and more interesting way to find out it is to explore them yourself. Who cares if I love ‘The Toad’ in Cuth’s bar but you cannot stand the idea of putting anything that fluorescently green into your body? Everyone’s experience of Durham is different, don’t waste your time chasing anyone else’s experience, make your own. Durham University is now your university, explore and use it how you wish.

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