One of the most difficult parts of coming to university can be the daunting task of navigating an entirely new social environment in an entirely new place. Freshers week itself can be incredibly overwhelming, but it’s important to know that there are lots of ways to find your place and your people both in college and in the university as a whole.
I arrived at Durham last year from the chilly Canadian shores without ever having met another Durham student in person. My high school had no idea what a personal statement was, I had never visited the Durham University campus, and if I’m being quite honest with you I did not have the slightest clue what I was getting myself into. Looking back now, I think that forcing myself to come to Durham lead to me having one of the most incredible years ever - but that only happened because of some amazing advice I got along the way, which I’m going to try and pass along to you folks now.
The most important thing, I think, is to join. Join many, join often, and join things that you never could have pictured yourself doing before. Not only do you learn more about yourself, but you also meet incredible people that you otherwise wouldn’t have. I’m not the most artistically gifted human being (read: I can just about colour within the lines), but I decided to join Hatfield Paintsoc just for fun. Because of that, one night, I ended up joining in on a social where I met the people that I moved in with this year and I would consider them to be some of my best friends. The moral of the story is that you just never know what could happen, but give it a go and you might just end up enjoying it.
The second piece of advice that I found extraordinarily helpful was that sometimes you will be sad, or homesick, and that’s okay - it sometimes seems (especially during freshers!) that everybody is having the best time and meeting the best people, except for you. The first thing to note is that this isn’t true. People won’t tell you when things get tough, or when they’re feeling isolated, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not happening. The second thing you should know is that there are so SO many people around Hatfield that would be more than willing to help you when that happens. Our welfare team are always around for a chat, a cup of tea, or to help you access more formal help should you need it. Our college staff are experts on pastoral care and making sure that you are in the most comfortable situation for you. There are always events going on in college that you can attend if a little bit of socializing might be exactly what you need.
I guess, if you take away one thing from this slightly rambling blog post, I would like it to be this - even if you know absolutely nobody in college, or in Durham as a whole, if you surrender yourself to all of the people, activities, and support college has to offer, you’ll be just fine.
Rory Flynn, 2nd Year International Relations