University is such an exciting step in your life, you are about to start an amazing adventure but like all big changes, it can also be challenging. It’s completely normal to feel overwhelmed, homesick and nervous at times, especially since Freshers’ Week can be such a full on week with so many new experiences to be had. As the welfare team, we hope to help you make the transition as smooth as possible by offering a few tips that we wish we’d known before coming to Durham.
1. Firstly, it's important to remember is that Fresher’s Week is by no means the most important week of Uni. If you’re not having the greatest time and you feel like everyone else is, don’t be put off – you have years of opportunities to meet new people and try new things.
2. “Don’t let your degree get in the way of your education”. Hatfield will be the place you eat, sleep, play sport, study… there are so many exciting opportunities to try something new and get involved and you’ll soon find out that it truly is the best college! Often the best way to stay positive is to get involved with as much as possible (a cliché you’ve probably heard a thousand times!). Hatfield as the second oldest college is full of traditions; spooning at formals followed by college songs is the best way to spend a Friday evening, and college brunch is the best moment of the week. College events like Hatfield Day, Lion in Winter Ball and Michaelmas Ball are great fun and definitely worth the money!
3. Whilst college may look like a boarding school, Uni is very different. Give everybody a chance - get to know as many people in your year and in older years as possible. If you don’t feel like you immediately click with the people on your corridor/staircase, it’s not the end of the world! Make broad friendship groups and you’ll always have someone to hang out with. Whilst living in a close community is great fun and supportive, it can also lead to tensions, so communication and honesty are key; passive aggressive post-it notes are not the way forward!
4. Hatfield seems to be the college everyone loves to hate, and you may have even heard about the rivalry before you arrived. College rivalry can be fun, and people will make comments during your first seminar and on nights out, but it’s just jealousy - we all know how amazing our sports teams are, and that we have the best music bands! Our advice is to join in with the Hatfield banter - if people sing about Hatfield, just sing along, don’t let it affect you, never retaliate and always take it in your stride.
5. Whilst college is important, remember to get to know people from your course as well – life does exist away from Hatfield! Durham has so many different societies, theatre companies, volunteering schemes and it’s a fantastic way to try new things and meet different people. At the DSU Freshers’ fair, you can find out about all the Uni-wide things you can get involved with.
6. Make sure to keep a balanced life - do go to lectures!! To make the most out of them you may find it useful to read the lecture slides the night before. You can also see all your deadlines in advance which helps to keep on top of work, we’ve all spent the last week of our first term stuck with all our essays, we don’t recommend it and you’ll regret it! If you get behind, you have nothing to lose if you ask for an extension. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for help with your course from friend/older years/professors, you’re smart enough to get onto your course and there’s never shame in asking for help!
7. Uni is an incredibly busy time so remember to take some time to look after yourself. It’s important to stay in contact with home; some people like direct contact and regularly skype or phone their friends and family to stay in touch, whereas for others this makes them miss home more, so you can find other ways to connect to home like a cheesy playlist or photos reminding you of good memories. Keep cards with inspirational quotes on them like 'it always seems impossible until it's done' to help keep visual reminders that everything will be okay! Give yourself some breaks, go on strolls by the river to just have some peaceful time or just even stretch your legs and clear your mind, go for a run or to the gym with a friend or take a trip to one of Durham’s many coffee shops. It’s better to take a break and start over than forcing yourself; remember to work smart not hard!
8. Student life is very different from school and can be exciting with the extra freedom away from home, but it isn’t a reason to damage yourself every night! If you enjoy going out, remember to take time off – you’ll hear all about it the next day anyway! When walking back after a night out, never walk by the river for any reason, and if you’re living in Shoichi Hall the Nightbus (07922 648802) and the Get Home Safe Scheme are here if you need them.
9. Don’t rush to sign a second year house with people you aren’t sure you want to live with for a year. People always start talking about housing early in first term, but let this worry you - you’ll always find a house in Durham, and the people you live with are far more important than the location.
10. There is always support available if you need it. Welfare teams are a huge part of the Uni experience within the colleges at Durham- and our aim is to help you all get through the next few years with as little stress as possible. We are your first student point of contact for anyone experiencing difficulties at home or in Durham. During the year, we’ll have 5 two-hour weekly drop in hours where you can come for a chat or to get some supplies. We have quite literally everything from cough and cold medicines, paracetamol, sexual health supplies (condoms, lube, pregnancy tests) etc. and you can pick these up from our drop-in hours, or by sending a message to the anon messaging service (hatfieldjcr.co.uk/chat). Whether small or large we are always happy to chat about any issues you may have, so please don’t hesitate to contact us, whether it's mental health, work or noisy roommates, but are also there if you want to grab a cuppa or some snacks! We may not have magic solutions, but we’re more than happy to help in any way we can. Unless you’re at risk, anything that happens in drop-ins is completely confidential, so we won't go telling anyone else what you've been up to.
11. While we are here for you, there are other ways to seek help. Within Hatfield, we have the lovely Ellen Crabtree (Assistant Senior Tutor) and Anthony Bash (Senior Tutor) who are always on hand and happy to help any Hatfielders in need of support. No problem is too big or too small for these two, and they can talk you through anything: financial advice, what to do if you’re having academic difficulties, Mental Health Support & referrals to the University’s excellent Counselling Service, Disability Support, help with stress/anxiety, problems with roommates/housemates... (basically any pastoral issue!). If you have any questions Brenda (email@example.com) will get you an appointment and is always friendly and will try her best to help you. Outside of college, you can book appointments at University Counselling, call Nightline every day from 9 pm until 7 am for a confidential chat. More info can be found at the end of every weekly welfare email in the ‘support avenues’ attached document.
And remember, you’re amazing and you’ll do brilliantly, but if you ever need help we’re here for you! If you need us during Fresher’s week (or during the year) and outside of the drop in hours just message us so we can organise to meet up in college or even a coffee shop in town.
Welfare Love <3 xxxxx
Laura, Gaspard and the Welfare Team