1 September 2000


About to start a new term at college? Then read on.

Farmlife kicks off its College Special with a few tips from

Ian Robson, who looks after student welfare at Harper

Adams, on how to navigate your way through those first

few all-important days. Freshers Week can bring new

friends, late nights and messy games. It can be one of

the best weeks of your life – but it can be a frightening

time, too, as you settle into your new home

SOMETHING special happens in that first week, says Ian. The spirit thats generated is one that 20 or 30 years later will still bond the freshers together as friends. "If you could market it, youd be a millionaire."

Theres no other time quite like Freshers Week. "Dont come with any preconceived ideas. The main thing you will need is a sense of humour. Get involved with as much as possible. That is the way to make friends."

Freshers Week is, after all, the ideal time to make friends. "Dont be a shrinking violet. If you dont join in, you wont know what you are missing."

Join clubs and societies and be open to suggestion, says Ian. Dont decide before you arrive at college what you will and wont do. "People that have been forced to play a musical instrument at school, for example, might want to get away from it.

"But college is all about choice. You wont be forced to go to practice. So bring that trumpet and stick it under the bed. If you want to go to practice, you can. If you dont, dont."

The first few days are also an ideal chance to meet and greet, with semi-formal events allowing you to meet all the people who will be important to you during your stay, such as tutors, wardens, the doctor and chaplains.

Its a busy time and keeping busy is the best antidote to homesickness – something which, according to Ian, most people suffer from at one time or another.

You can always contact family and friends via the phone or e-mail. "You can keep in touch very easily. But dont be in a too much of a rush to go home, certainly not for the first two weekends because youll miss out if you do."

&#42 Dont go wild

As well as throwing yourself in at the deep end, keep an eye on the cash. "Youre away from home, theres nobody to restrict you, you need to socialise, but dont go wild with your money.

"Unless youve got lots of money, dont spend huge amounts. You dont want to find after a couple of weeks, youve spent two-thirds of your loan."

A useful way of saving cash is to delay buying books and course equipment until you arrive. You might be able to get them second-hand and you might find that you dont need as many as you thought. "Youll get to hear from the older students what the essentials are."

What you should take, however, is a kettle, a toaster and enough items – like posters or wall rugs – to personalise your room. "It can be very bare otherwise. Its nice at the end of the day to get back to your own room and your own personal space."

Its best, however, not to bring anything of any great value like a top-of-the-range mountain bike. Itll only get borrowed or broken or lost. The same thing goes for expensive stereos. "If youve got 10 mates in your room, someone will only sit on it."

If you are unhappy about anything, meanwhile, dont be afraid to talk. Ian recommends hall wardens as the first port of call. "Everyone is here to talk.

"If you think youre on the wrong course, dont just sit back and accept whats going on. There are people around to help you. Theres plenty of time to change. The core modules on different courses tend to be the same for the first semester anyway."

Similarly with accommodation. "We can always try and swap people if they want another room. Its like a jigsaw situation."

&#42 Not for ever

The final thing to remember, says Ian, is that Freshers Week doesnt go on for ever. Life settles down. And the academic work starts. "The most difficult thing for students is having all this temptation of entertainment and social life. You have to remember that your 9 to 5 is attending lectures."

Its all about balance. Too much play and no work means youll fail your course, but too much work and no play means you wont get the most from your time at college.

But the academic work comes later. First, theres Freshers Week. And this is a time when the emphasis, very definitely, is on play not work. So make the most of it and enjoy it. Enjoy the spirit. Enjoy meeting the new people that will become your friends. Friends for the next few years and for the rest of your life.

"They will come to your wedding and you will go to theirs. You will be god-parents to their children and they to yours."

Thats the spirit of Freshers Week.

"Yes, mum, its really hard work here!"

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