Stephanie Heeb is studying for an MA in English and French at the University of Zurich. During the Autumn Semester 2019, she is completing a semester abroad at the University of Warwick in Coventry.
I had been warned about Welcome Week (or Fresher’s week, as it’s also known). “You won’t get any sleep.” “It’s like a week-long hangover.” “You’ll definitely get fresher’s flu.” And to be honest, I was rather apprehensive about the experience. I thought Welcome Week would be all about drinking, and while I do enjoy the occasional night out, a week of partying sounded like hell to me. So while I was hopeful I’d make friends, I felt rather doubtful about this first week. There weren’t even going to be any actual classes – was there really much point in being there?
It turns out there was – Welcome Week turned out to be such a joyful experience that I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. The best thing I did in preparation was to connect with other students in advance. I had joined a Facebook chat for other incoming study abroad students, which was useful in preparation for the exchange, as we were able to ask each other questions about housing and registration. But it was on the first night especially where I was really glad to know there were some people I could go out and grab a drink with. I was anxious that I would spend the first day sat in my (rather depressing) room alone; but it ended up being a lovely evening, where I got to know a couple of people over a pint in the Student’s Union’s pub.
Slowly, I also got to know my flatmates. Being freshers, they’re all a fair few years younger than me, and for all of them it is the first time that they’re living away from home. I soon discovered that all seven of them are really friendly, and we now often end up playing boardgames and chatting in the kitchen.
But most of my first week was spent with other exchange students. We went to the various events hosted by the university together: the pub quiz, the sport’s fair, the societies’ fair, and various parties at the Student’s Union. We went into Coventry together to get some bits and pieces we needed for our rooms. We had lunch and dinner together, and all got to know each other over the course of the week. Meeting people from all around the world was really enriching, but also helpful, as they’re all in a similar situation to me: we all know our time at Warwick is going to be limited, so we’re all keen to profit as much as we can while we’re here.
Then there were the academic inductions, where I finally got to meet some other postgraduate students in English literature. The inductions themselves weren’t that useful to me, as they were directed at MA students who would be completing their whole degree at Warwick, but they gave me the chance to meet the people I would be taking modules with. I have had my first week of classes since, and I appreciated the fact that I already knew some people that I could chat with about the reading.
And yes, there were a couple of nights out, culminating in the infamous fresher’s party on Saturday night, at the end of Welcome Week. I was initially not going to buy one of the rather expensive tickets, but was persuaded by my new-found friends that it was going to be worth it. And they were right. In a room full of almost strangers, singing along to “Let it Go” from Frozen, I suddenly knew I would feel right at home at Warwick.
My one tip for Welcome Week: everyone is new, so feel free to speak to anyone and everyone you come across. Being rather shy, this is something I’d never had the courage to do at home. But during this first week, everyone is glad to see a friendly face and have someone to talk to. The thing that surprised me again and again was just how nice everyone was; from the barista serving me my coffee, to the university staff at Senate House, to every single student I have met so far. There was no need for me to feel apprehensive at all; Welcome Week is just a chance for you to find your people, and find them I did.