The ultimate Features guide to freshers’ week

Co-ordinated by the Features section

With insights from societies and advice from our contributors, this Features spread highlights the ways freshers can get involved in Durham University life this year.

Advice from the Features Editors

‘Looking back on my first year, I wish that I had thrown myself into an extracurricular activity more eagerly. Academics mattered too much to me, even though my final grade didn’t count towards my degree, and it was not until second year that I found a source for my energy and passion – Palatinate! Don’t have the same regret as me – find something in Year 1!’

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‘It’s okay if everything isn’t exactly how you had imagined. After months of summer filled with thinking about university, preparing and packing, it can feel frustrating if you don’t feel instantly settled in freshers week and beyond. For me, it took a while for Durham to be somewhere that felt like home. Be kind to yourself, give yourself time to adjust and enjoy the calmer moments as well as the exciting, hectic ones.’

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‘Fresher’s Week can feel like a race to quickly situate yourself in an exciting rhythm at university. The less glamorous truth is that finding your footing at university takes patience; forcing friendships and overextending yourself can burn you out before you even realise. Homesickness and loneliness are uncomfortable emotions, but don’t be too anxious to press fast-forward – trust the process and the discomfort will eventually fade.’

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Society Spotlight

University is not just about your academics. There are a huge range of extra-curricular activities to get involved with, and below we have collated some insights into the different societies and organistions that Durham has to offer.

This year, the Freshers Fair was held online. President Seun Twins stated before the event on Wednesday 30 September and Thursday 1 October that ‘this means anyone can browse, sign up and jump into video calls with hundreds of student groups.’ ‘Give It A Go week’ has also been extended to a much more engaging and ‘Give It A Go month’, meaning, as added by Twins, ‘more opportunities for incoming students to explore everything that the Students Union offers in the safest way possible.’

A wide range of different societies will be giving more information on what they do.

Additionally, make sure to look out for different societies’ slots on Purple Radio, available to listen on air or on demand. A wide range of different societies will be giving more information on what they do and how to get stuck in across freshers week, so definitely tune in.

Purple Radio: Purple Radio, Durham’s award-winning student radio station, is a brilliant way to be involved in student broadcasting at university. At Purple there is always something to get involved in – whether it is live on air, recording a podcast, doing promotions or helping out with tech and website design. Email station.manager@purpleradio.co.uk with any questions and follow us on social media.

By Elle Woods-Marshall

Palatinate: Any current Durham student can get involved in Palatinate – writing, illustrating or photography is on a freelance basis. You can also apply for editorial roles when they open throughout the year. It’s a great chance to build some writing experience and cover topics from politics to fashion to science. If you have any questions, email us on editor@palatinate.org.uk!

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DUCK: Durham University Charities Committee (DUCK) strives to empower Durham University students so that they can make a difference to amazing charities by engaging in unique experiences. The DUCK Officers lead teams of students to help with events, communication with charities, publicity and so much more. Whether you’d like to discover parts of the world through our expeditions, or join the team, we cannot wait to meet you!

By Stella Amelie Peterson

DST: Durham Student Theatre (DST) is the home of theatre at Durham University. Whether you want to produce, direct, or run a theatre company, DST aims to support its members in doing what they love: to thrive, enjoy and make the most of the high-quality theatre our hard-working student body creates. From the implementation of socially distanced seating to online shows, we are working hard to make sure that theatre continues in these tough times. After all, the show must go on!

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The Durham University Non-Law Into Law Society (NILS): The Durham University Non-Law Into Law Society (NILS) aims to bridge the gap between non-law students and the legal profession. Non-law students acquire a very broad range of skills throughout their undergraduate degree and their value to the profession should not be underestimated. NILS will be hosting a series of events throughout the year for non-law students that should help equip them with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in an increasingly competitive sector.

By Joe Zietman

Making new friends at University can seem daunting for many at first, so just enjoy living in the moment.

Heads Up: Heads Up is a student-led society focused on improving students’ mental health and wellbeing. It forms the Durham branch of Student Minds, a nationwide charity that raises awareness and support for mental health issues at university. Heads Up members can attend regular events to meet a supportive community outside of the collegiate system, and this year we have planned events ranging from a wellbeing walk to an exciting talk on mental health, as well as (possibly virtual) socials.

By Nicola Thomson

SSDP Durham: SSDP Durham is part of an international student led organisation dedicated to reforming punitive drug policies and promoting sensible drug education. As part of our mission to ensure that Durham students can use drugs sensibly in a safe, non-judgemental environment, we task ourselves with campaigning against the university’s zero-tolerance drug policy, providing a space for students to discuss drug-related issues and distributing harm reduction information via leafleting and social media. Although SSDP neither condemns nor condones the use of any drugs, we believe that the war on drugs is a war on us and changing anti-drug attitudes will save lives.

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Advice from our Writers

‘Don’t pressure yourself to stick to a friendship group: Making new friends at University can seem daunting for many at first, so just enjoy living in the moment. Friendships will form naturally over time and they may or may not happen in the first week. Just go with the flow and be open to new people that you meet along the way.’

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‘Pace yourself: You’re at university for at least three years, which is longer than you realise. It’s very easy to go full throttle into the first term, only to burn out halfway through. Don’t put so much ‘carpe diem’ pressure on yourself all the time; just pausing a moment and appreciating your surroundings can be invaluable. Sometimes taking time for yourself is the perfect remedy.’

Don’t put so much ‘carpe diem’ pressure on yourself all the time.

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Homesickness is normal: Feeling daunted by the prospect of leaving home is completely normal. It doesn’t make you more immature than your seemingly fine, living-their-best-life flatmates, nor does it detract from your overall experience. These moments are fleeting, but one thing to remember is that you are forging a new kind of home here, with those you surround yourself with. If you’re feeling wobbly, reach out to those people and, if all else fails, a cup of tea and a favourite tv show are reliable antidotes.’

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Add self-care to your calendar: When I think back to freshers’ week, I remember resolutely avoiding my dorm at all costs. For me, it meant succumbing to my comfort zone, and was counterproductive to making friends. We easily feel the fear of missing out, afraid everyone else becomes one step ahead in the friend-making race. But it is healthy to dedicate time for yourself, to speak with home friends, and you certainly should not feel guilty about doing so!’

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Image courtesy of Purple Radio

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