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Have no expectations. If there was one thing I would tell myself before Freshers’ Week, that would be it. Those three words would walk me through my first year at university, probably through my whole degree, and possibly through my entire life.

Starting university is an exciting experience for many; moving away from home, and the freedom that is customarily linked to this. Naturally, such connotations of this aforementioned freedom created a myriad of expectations in my head – no expectations higher than those I had for ‘UoB Freshers’ Week 2k15’ (as the Facebook group had called it).

Straight out of boarding school (where I seldom went on nights-out), with the stories of my sister’s Freshers’ Week lingering in my mind, a stage was set for the best week of my life.

  • I would meet so many cool people; and because there would be so many, I would invariably click with some of them and we’d just have the best week,
  • I would go out every night, and dance to great music until 4am,
  • I would naturally just gel and adapt to this new environment because we were all in the same position.

Everything would just be the best!

About an hour into introductions with my flatmates, amidst flowing conversation about the Parquet Courts and the Kings of Leon, I began to wonder how I was grouped to live with these people (considering the hobbies and similarities form which we filled out prior to arrival). We had nothing in common.

The hours went on and little changed. I was the odd one out, or at least I strongly felt this way. Nevertheless, expectations did not slip. If anything, they remained firm. When night fell, Freshers’ would live up to the months of anticipation and excitement, and magically turn into the best time of my life.

What welcomed me instead, was a string of awkward nights out, dancing to music I had never heard (but felt a compulsion to feign great enjoyment), with people I didn’t necessarily like. It took me until the last day of the week to fully comprehend how terrible it was.

I expected so much, and in the days and even months that followed I felt almost wrong, or embarrassed to admit that I did not have a good experience. It was one of the most isolating times of my life. I didn’t meet people that were like me, I didn’t enjoy going out, I didn’t feel like I were a part of the “Freshers’ Week experience” that is frequently talked about.

Primarily, I blame this on my expectations. Of course there were invariably confounding factors at play; but at the end of the day, regarding my capacity and control over my enjoyment, if I had not attached such high, insurmountable expectations, there would be no where for disappointment to fall from.  It was because of this extreme high, that I inevitably allowed myself to feel so low.  And whilst advice to drop all expectations is commonplace, it took me till then to fully realise its truth.

I didn’t enjoy Freshers’ Week. And the truth of the matter is that countless people don’t, and that’s okay.

  • If your Freshers’ Week wasn’t AH-MAZING, the good news is that you have fifty one more weeks which can be amazing. 
  • If you’re a Fresher, or new to an environment, it may take you longer than a single week to find your ground, your place, and your people. Feeling isolated isn’t a great feeling by any standards, but it is okay – c’est la vie.
  • The biggest thing I took away from Freshers’ was to refrain from having expectations (or at least manage them). That was my motto for the rest of first year. With a student population of over 22,000, 1095 on my course (397 in my year group alone), 700 intentional students in my faculty, and a comparatively low percentage of BME students (11% of University of Bristol students living in Britain come from a BME background) – that was probably one the most pragmatic decisions I could have made, and it served me so well.

Notwithstanding the seismic let-down of Freshers’ Week, I did end up having one of the best years of my life.

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