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How to still have a great Freshers’ in 2020, despite everything

Whether you’re living at uni or staying at home

We’ve had quite the 2020, which has thrown up a number of things that are going to make university completely different. No more draping your arm around randoms on a night out, no more studying in confined spaces, and no more cramped pres in uni kitchens for the time being. Just because some things are a little uncertain doesn’t mean you can’t have a great Freshers’ this year though.

While most universities are scrapping face-to-face lectures for now, small groups like seminars are mostly still going ahead on campus, and students can expect to move into halls when term starts. However, parties in halls will be banned, and it’s likely that you will have to stick to your bubble – around 12-15 students living together. You can check your uni’s latest accommodation advice here.

Some unis are also considering extending teaching hours past 6 pm to allow for more social distancing. Make sure you check your university’s latest guidelines before you start, to see if this applies to you.

If you’re staying at home this year instead, don’t worry there are still plenty of ways to get involved. We’ve put together a handy guide to ensure Freshers’ 2020 is just as amazing as any other. 

Keep safe

You need to ensure your safety now more than ever, which luckily shouldn’t be too difficult, just don’t sweat the small stuff. Don’t feel the need to hug everyone you meet, and don’t feel pressured to go to areas where there are lots of people – there’s so much else you can do instead.

Get to know people in person AND virtually

While touching may be off the cards, making friends certainly isn’t. To give you the best chance of settling in, try and talk to as many people in as many places as possible. It might be those people talking about that TV show you really like in your seminar or a spontaneous game of pool with some other students at the pub. Just remember to follow social distancing guidelines.

If you’re moving into halls, the first people you will meet are your housemates. As you’ll be spending a year with them, they could become some of your best friends, so it’s worth getting to know them as soon as you move in. 

If your uni isn’t fully open yet, you’re living at home, or your preference is not to be in crowded situations currently – don’t fear! Facebook groups were invented for a reason. Search for your uni’s Freshers’ Facebook group or accommodation groups – you can introduce yourself via message on there and you’ll likely be in a group chat with some new mates by the end of the day. No doubt the Zoom quizzes will start shortly after.`

Get involved in the virtual Freshers’ events your SU is putting on

Not every online session will be your cup of tea, but you can expect advice on things like joining societies, mental health and general life at your uni. 

Join a sports club or a society, even if you can’t meet them yet

University sport and societies will still be an undoubtedly big part of uni (potentially minus the initial nights out), and Freshers’ is a great time to get involved. Campus Freshers’ fairs are, for now, cancelled, but many unis have organised one or two day online events, where you can sign up and meet new people virtually.

You can expect sports matches to go ahead as usual, but without a crowd. Nevertheless, there will be plenty of other ways to celebrate (safely, and keeping your distance) on a Wednesday night – which is sports night across most unis. It’s likely that societies will initially do Zoom meetings and socials too, to make sure everyone can attend.

If you fancy eating out, you could choose a free four year tastecard and get 2 for 1 or 50% off food when you open your NatWest Student Account. Alternatively, you can choose from one year free Amazon Prime Student (plus a £10 gift card) or a free four year National Express Coachcard

Apply online only. Account eligibility criteria applies. Offer T&C’s apply.

Be prepared study in your room

I hate to break it to you, but lecturers do tend to give students reading and assignments right from the very start of term. When uni libraries and workspaces reopen there will be limited capacity. So, if you’re living at home, or moving to uni, you can expect to spend more time working in your room.

Firstly, make sure you’re happy with your set up – a desk, comfy chair, a window to look out of – whatever works for you. Then, it’s all down to how good you are at dealing with distraction and giving yourself some routine. Maybe you’d work better locking your phone away, or perhaps you need to get dressed and ensure you’re sat at a desk to get going. Whatever it is, take regular breaks, and remember that if you’re living in halls, Freshers’ is for settling in, so you’ll likely find yourself in the kitchen more often than at your desk anyway. For more tips, check out our guide on how to study in your bedroom.

Clubbing might be off the cards – but pubs aren’t and you can have friends round to yours (make sure you follow the guidelines though)

As the fate of nightclubs is uncertain, there’s likely to be fewer (if any) big Freshers’ events or a Freshers’ wristband, which on the plus side means fewer promoters desperately trying to get you to go to them. To be honest, Freshers’ events can be a real drain on your money anyway. This year will definitely be different, but you’ll still be able to do a lot of the things that you’d be doing during a “normal” Freshers’ – like go to the pub in a small group as long as you follow the guidelines.

But you only get one Freshers’ so make the most out of it: Go out and explore the place with your new housemates. Try and go to as many events as possible. Nightclubs might not be back, but that doesn’t matter when you can still meet up with friends. But remember: be careful.

In the same way, don’t feel pressured to go out – there’s just as much fun to be had in a less risky environment. Why not throw a proper student dinner party? You’ve got to learn to cook sooner or later. 

If you’re living at home instead, make the most of Zoom quizzes with friends you’ve met online – there will be plenty.

If you feel you need to get away from it all, don’t worry. Choose a free four year National Express Coachcard when you open your NatWest Student Account to get a third off fares and travel to and from your parents’ place for cheaper. Alternatively, you can choose from a free four year tastecard or one year free Amazon Prime Student (plus a £10 gift card).

Apply online only. Account eligibility criteria applies. Offer T&C’s apply.

Try not to spend your money all at once

If you’re living at home – this could be a great opportunity to save some money. But if you’re living at uni – watch your spending. It’s the age-old story that the student comes to uni, gets their loan and then proceeds to spend it all. But you don’t have to live on the cheap.

It’s up to you how you do it, but the general consensus is that it’s a great idea to plan your budget before you go to uni. Working out how much you’ll need to spend weekly on groceries is a great start, and means that you can plan for… other outgoings. While it’s nice to be the one getting the rounds in from time to time, just make sure it’s not going to break the bank.

Take a look at our easy budget calculator to work out how much money you’ll need for your Freshers’ week here. 

Check the dress code

Coronavirus may have taken our freedom, but it hasn’t taken away our style. Bring as many clothes as you can, but remember, halls and student house wardrobe space can be limited.

Uni is where a lot of people discover their individual style. That being said, you’re going to see a lot of people in Air Force Ones, puffers and tiny sunglasses. Expect to spend many of your nights in jeans and a nice top (obvs). Oh, and there’s no need for heels or smarts shirts unless you’re going to fancy bars. Other than that, anything goes with clothing (and on themed nights, ANYTHING goes). If you’re stuck see our guide on each uni’s aesthetic right here.

If you’re keeping your Freshers’ virtual – it’s probably best to not log on to your virtual lectures in your PJs (and if you do, make sure your camera is very much off). If you’re keeping it on, this is a great opportunity to show some style on the top, and PJs on the bottom. 

If you’re moving out, only take the essentials

This is undoubtedly the stage in life when you’ll start to get excited about boring things like nice knives and kitchen appliances. If you’re moving to uni, the first on your list is checking what is already going to be there in your accommodation. Microwave, kettle, toaster, pizza oven – you know, the essentials. Pro tip: many uni halls do not provide a toaster. 

Coronavirus has definitely ruled out sharing plates and cutlery – so keep yours in your own separate kitchen cupboard. Perhaps bring some labels, too. Avoid taking anything you’re precious about for the communal spaces, just in case. 

Try and only take what you really need. You’ll probably end up with just one cupboard for your own use, so you’ll only have room for essentials. And yes, a toastie maker is very much an essential, whatever your parents say.

Fancy one year of free Amazon Prime Student (plus a £10 gift card) for your streaming needs and unlimited fast deliveries? Open a NatWest Student Account to choose from this, 2 for 1 or 50% off food with a free four year tastecard or a third off fares with a free four year National Express Coachcard.

Apply online only. Account eligibility criteria applies. Offer T&C’s apply.

Open a NatWest Student Account and choose from either a free four year tastecard, one year free Amazon Prime Student (plus a £10 gift card) or a free four year National Express Coachcard Apply online only. Account eligibility criteria applies. Offer T&C's apply