December 2, 2019, by Charli
Looking back on welcome week, three years later…
Back in 2016…
I started welcome week at university as a fresh-faced, just-turned-18 year old with four A Levels, zero life skills, and a long-held ambition to become a vet. Now I’m a just-turned-21 year old with a degree, a fair few more life skills than I started out with (I hope), and a slightly less concrete but more me idea of what I’ll be doing when I graduate again after my 5th year of university and start life as a fully-fledged veterinary surgeon.
People always tell you that university will be the best years of your life, which is quite a lot of pressure when you move into halls in your first year, wave goodbye to whoever dropped you off, and come to the terrifying realisation that at some point you’re going to have to open your door, venture out, and try to meet the people that are going to make the next three years so incredible.
I think I assumed that I would instantly bond with all my flatmates and a lifetime of friendship would automatically follow. Flat 7 against the world, right? And though I can honestly say I loved my first year flat, I now realise that the friends I ended up forming the best memories with were those I met later on, through far less cliché means. Who knew?
Expectations vs reality
A defining feature of my first week at university was that I managed to come down with laryngitis the day after moving in. Maybe someone I met on my first ever Nottingham club night infected me, or perhaps I was patient zero of the rampant freshers’ flu that year? Either way, the subsequent loss of my voice, my GP’s antibiotic-induced alcohol ban, and the extreme tiredness that dominated my first week, were major stumbling blocks to my plans. How could I possibly meet these lifelong friends when I couldn’t talk, drink, or stay up past 8pm?
Thankfully, it turns out that none of those things seemed to hamper me too much. I will be forever grateful to the girl that put up with my croaky ghost of a voice for an awkward 45-minute bus ride to the local zoo, who now remains one of my closest friends to this day. Not being able to drink or stay up late did stop me going clubbing, but it certainly didn’t stop me from having an absolute (sober) blast at the on-campus bar parties that week. The theatre society elected to ignore my beaten-up voice and cast me in their pantomime! My best friend had never touched a drop of alcohol in her life when I met her on our first day, and three years later, she still has no plans to. And it turns out that making friends before 8pm is not only possible, but significantly easier.
The power of hindsight
Looking back at it all, it’s clear that I had quite a few ill-conceived ideas about how welcome week should go, and I’m very thankful that they were proved wrong. If someone doesn’t want to get to know you just because you can’t go out clubbing with them, you don’t want to drink, or you can’t talk above a whisper, then chances are you don’t want to get to know them either! The perfect circle of friends aren’t going to show up outside your door to adopt you and whisk you away on three years of revelry, instead you collect people (like Pokémon!) as they pop up in your life, usually in the most unexpected places.
Welcome week is a crazy, chaotic blur, but it doesn’t predict anything about the rest of your university life. Enjoy it however you can, but if it ends and you’re scared that you’ve not met those perfect friends, don’t be. My welcome week turned out to be nothing like I expected, but I wouldn’t change my overall university experience for the world. And as it turns out, I don’t even like going out clubbing that much anyway!