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An Unconventional Fresher experience: no alcohol, no halls

It’s not your typical Fresher’s

Alcohol, clubs and alcohol…

These are typically what you might associate with Undergraduate Fresher’s Week. However, as someone who does not drink alcohol and is not a big clubber, my fresher’s week was rather different from the norm. Instead, my most common activity in the evenings was playing board games. Add to this the fact that I reside in a shared flat with friends made beyond UCL, I would class my settling-in experience as quite unique.

My flat

Moving into a shared flat in my first year definitely has its pros and cons. Obviously, it saves me having to worry about the process next year when I might seem to have less time on my hands. As sorting out the flat was tiresome and stressful, I feel it was definitely advantageous to get it out of the way now.

Similarly, the crucial life-skills necessary for one to identify themselves as a fully independent adult, namely, cooking and cleaning, take time to develop and balance amongst all the commitments of a degree. So, whilst I spend hours every week doing chores and it might seem to me like an impediment, by next year this time spent will be reduced as I slowly learn the meaning of efficiency (or so I tell myself).

A major disadvantage, however, is of course the greater difficulty this brings in making friends. Not living in a corridor full of fellow first years and not always seeing people around in a common room or at dinner means that there is less room for spontaneity and extra effort must be made to find people to meet. The independence attached to being a history undergraduate is also quite counterproductive in the first few weeks, as the mere 8 weekly contact hours do not help in finding fellows to befriend (and let’s face it, that is all lectures are really used for during the first few weeks).

My course

That said, the history department’s trip to Cumberland lodge in the weekend of fresher’s week, which I understood to have become something of a department tradition, was very useful to get to know other people from my course.

More than that, it was just a break from the craziness of my first week. The trip comprised of a few lectures and discussions themed on the pertinent topic of climate change and history’s relevance to it, as well as a quiz, a walk around the park (although this had to be replaced by more board games due to the rain) and good food. My highlight of the trip, however, was my Sunday morning run around Windsor Great Park. Although it was a shame that I could not convince anyone else to accompany me, running by myself allowed for some quality downtime amongst the tranquillity of Windsor Park.

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At Cumberland Lodge

Just as every period of change has its highs and lows, my phase of change from school to university and from home to living away from my family had its highs and lows too. It wasn't long before I could not help but feel overwhelmed. As lectures and readings started, I slowly began to feel worried about being able to adapt to the demands of a completely different teaching style.

There crept feelings of loneliness as the process of meeting potential friends seemingly came to a halt. Even choosing the right societies to invest my time in from so much choice became a serious matter which worried me. And the immense opportunities I was presented with led to worries of not using them to their full potential.

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However, all it takes for me to overcome these concerns and turn them into excitements for my future is a realisation that, often, such a mindset comes from my overthinking of things and my crude perfectionism. I have a desire to identify a working method, to return to stable certainty and to establish a routine I am certain will yield results, as soon as possible. Maybe it is because I attended the same school for 7 years and have forgotten the amount of time it can take to adapt to a new world. Instead, I want to accelerate things forward to a time where what is new no longer feels as such.

Yet, it is only if and when I step back from these thoughts, that I can learn to live and enjoy the moment. I can try to absorb what it really means to study at a world-leading institution such as UCL. I can comprehend how special it is to be a part of this history and community. It is only then that I can deem myself truly settled in. This, of course, will take time and can only happen naturally.