Whether you’re a social butterfly or a shy, retiring violet, starting university can be a challenge for one and all. Making hundreds of new friends, remembering their names and finding your way around campus is hard enough, but add a dash of homesickness to the mix, a splash of the unknown, a couple of reading lists and a whole new city on your doorstep – then it gets a whole lot trickier. It’s a lot to handle on your own and, thanks to the invention of the now legendary Freshers’ Week, you won’t have to.
So how does Sussex rate when it comes to helping our Freshers get safely initiated and obliterated? It’s a delicate balance that some universities have tragically misjudged in the past, filling newcomers’ days with lengthy induction lectures and compulsory academic activities while overlooking the all-important need for drinking, dancing and getting to know each other. By the same token, some have put immeasurable effort into introducing their new students to the local club scene, while ignoring academic preparation and leaving their freshers hungover, lost and under-equipped come Monday morning.
But having happily partaken in three years worth of Sussex Freshers’ Weeks, I have to admit this seems to be an area in which we genuinely excel. Every year, community groups appear outside campus residences to aid arriving students on move-in weekend, carrying duvets and suitcases from boot to bedroom in their droves. Students have, in past years, also been provided with packs containing all manner of information (and, incidentally, a copy of The Badger’s Fresher issue) so that they have a good idea of where to go, how to get there, and what’s on offer throughout the week. This involves a pretty healthy mixture of talks, tours and opportunities to socialise, including barn dances, the popular ‘Laid Back and Latte’, pub crawls and the infamous freshers’ ball.
In fact, fresher support from Sussex begins in full force before new students have even set foot on campus – after all, as universities go, we’re pretty darn internet-savvy. The university website section on ‘Starting with us’ (aimed at freshers and available at sussex.ac.uk/induction) covers all the practical and logistical introductory issues (housing, registration, tours, talks, etc), while the Student Union site provides a less formal Freshers’ guide (including advice and info on everything from budgeting to drinking as well as an events guide) at ussu.info/Freshers. And if that wasn’t fairly good going, there’s also the official Facebook group (‘University of Sussex Freshers 2009’) which gives students a chance to ask questions and even meet future neighbours.
Some campus universities have also been criticised for focussing too hard on university-based events, leaving new students to explore the unchartered territory of local towns alone. But here too Sussex seems to have found a good balance, with several social events taking place in Brighton and a guide to getting around the city available on the USSU website.
Sussex may have its faults and may, arguably, not always put the needs and wants of its students first – nevertheless, it seems they certainly do know how to take care of their new recruits.