Before I went to university I had the typical preconceptions about freshers week. It hadn’t even crossed my mind that it might not be the best week of my life, that I might not instantly make friends for life or feel a sense of belonging in an alien city. But that’s what happened.
I never realised how much of an introvert I am until freshers week. The only thing I found worse than spending a week crammed into sweaty clubs surrounded by strangers- all of whom I made small talk with and most of whom I don’t remember- was feeling like I was the only one who wasn’t having the time of my life. Whilst I spent that week feeling isolated by my introversion and hiding beneath a façade of confidence, I realise now that if I had let myself be vulnerable and opened up to the freps and welfare officers who were there to support me, I would have found the compassion and companionship I was craving.
The advice I would give to an introverted fresher is to try and form closer relationships with those who surround you. Pre-drinks will be your friend- you can spend the evening getting to know your flatmates in depth and form friendships based on more than just “what course are you doing?” and “where are you from?”. Whilst I personally found some of my closest friends within my own flat, don’t despair if it doesn’t seem to be working out that way for you. Freshers week can be cliquey, but having the courage to step out of a group and meet others can be really rewarding. Simply sitting with a different table at lunch and introducing yourself or striking up a conversation with the person sat next to you in a lecture can create new possibilities or- at the least- a new friendly face around campus.
Step outside your comfort zone, but make sure you’re comfortable. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to take a night out to skype your friends from home or call your parents. Whilst the most common advice people give to freshers is to always have an open door, if you need to close it that’s ok too. As an introvert I cherish the time I have to myself, when I can pick up a book or write in my journal. It’s ok to leave time for those rituals of self-care to digest what is probably the craziest week of your life. However, it’s also important to try unfamiliar things- sign up for a new sport or a random society. Freshers taught me that the best view of Durham Cathedral is from a rowing boat at 7am, that the worst nightclub in Europe might just be my favourite and that I really can’t knit.
Most people won’t get to the end of freshers thinking they’ve made friends for life (and those who do are probably wrong). You have 51 more weeks of being a first year, and in those weeks you will meet more people, make new friends and probably grow apart from a lot of the people you surrounded yourself with in your first week. So, to the introverted fresher: be safe, take care of yourself and have fun. Most importantly- if you struggle, know you are not alone.