Many students anticipate Freshers Week like it’s their birthday. Endless supplies of booze, new friends, and club nights that are calling your name. Finally, you are a proper adult who can stumble into your halls at 5am and eat last night’s Dominos for breakfast to cure your hangover without your mother batting an eyelid. You can also bring someone home without the impending walk of shame into your kitchen. A time to meet new people without the restraints of asking your parents for permission. That’s what Freshers’ Week is all about!
Unless, you live at home. Making a cheese toastie at 1am or bringing home a boy after Kasbah is certainly not an option if you live 40 minutes away from home and have to get up at 6am for your 9am lecture. As a result, my Freshers’ experience was distinctly different to your average fresher.
Having muscular dystrophy meant that living at home was an easier option as I’d get support from my parents and not have to worry about things like ironing and cooking, which can be more difficult. I have student finance taxis that drop me off and take me home whenever I want so that I am not left out from university life. Sometimes I am thankful that I live at home and that I’m in close vicinity to two cities which provides me with greater opportunities to have a connection to two cities. Other times, I feel left out and alone when I can’t go to POP on Wednesdays or have to miss events because I’m too physically exhausted due to my condition.
Having the group chat and being quite active on it mean that I did not feel lonely or left out as I’d already made friends online
On my first day, I was lucky enough to make a lot of good friends thanks to the History group chat. Standing outside Rootes Grocery Store, I posted onto the group chat that I was wearing a brown jacket and a red scarf and that if anyone was looking for company and wanted to explore the vintage pop-up then they could meet me there. Thankfully, around fifteen people turned up, also looking to make new friends. Having the group chat and being quite active on it mean that I did not feel lonely or left out as I’d already made friends online who wanted to continue our friendship in person.
However, contributing to societies and joining clubs proved to be a problem during the first term. Most societies had events in the evenings and socials at night which often meant that I was forced to miss out as my muscles fatigued and I had nowhere to stay overnight. Many friends suggested that I could stay with them so that I could fully experience university life but having a condition that can cause a lot of pain prevented me from agreeing, especially as I felt that I was being a burden. Being constantly subjected to the misery of weekly physiotherapy sessions in yet another city took its toll, leaving me feeling discontented with university life due to the constant struggle between wanting to be more involved with university and knowing to not overload myself because of my health.
Being in the ‘bubble’ meant that I felt less excluded from university life
Being in the ‘Warwick bubble’ certainly helped me make friends and meet up with them more often. Due to the fact that I was accepted at Warwick through adjustment, I was constantly worried that I would not make friends as I lived at home and got my offer much later than other students. Many students moaned about being restricted to campus due to bad buses but for me, it meant that I was able to bump into friends that I’d made the day before and go for a spontaneous drink or get chatting to a random group of people. It also meant that I did not have to worry about the distance of different locations and make plans in advance as I was able to ascertain the accessibility and distance of various buildings quickly. Being in the ‘bubble’ meant that I felt less excluded from university life.
My confidence in joining societies grew massively after deciding to go on an international tour with a society. Having missed out on tickets for HistSoc’s international tour to Budapest, I decided to go to Berlin with the Law Society. Despite a few hitches, I learned how to throw myself into things that I had an interest in and had not tried before, and that I could get involved without living on campus.
The best thing about living at home is having enough money to try new activities and travel more, though for first year, I was too worried about accessibility to do this
Shortly after, I decided to start writing for The Boar by writing an article about my disability. After starting to write it several times and abandoning it, I took up several pitches from the Comment and News sections. Writing articles on things that I was passionate about, but from the comfort of my home, enabled me to be involved in university life without being overloaded or pressured to stay on campus. I was also able to make new friends and interact with people from other courses and meet people outside my seminars and lectures. This also gave me the courage to stand for election for Medieval Officer at HistSoc, having realised that just because I lived off campus and had mobility issues, I did not have to scrimp on the extra-curricular activities as I had more time and did not have to pay rent or board as I lived at home.
The best thing about living at home is having enough money to try new activities and travel more, though for first year, I was too worried about accessibility to do this. I was lucky that I did not pay rent and only paid a small amount to my mum for board which meant that I had a substantial amount of my student loan left. You may think that, as a result, I do not know how to budget or save. Yet, as I also had a part-time job and had taken on some household responsibilities since I was 12, I was able to save enough money to cover the unexpected costs of travelling with a disability, such as taxis and accessible hotel rooms that often come at a premium. That being said, I do wish I’d taken the opportunities of endless strikes and reading weeks to travel abroad rather than stick to the UK on my own.
Having a rather different time at university did not hinder my experience but allowed me to explore what I wanted out of university and be myself instead of following the crowd
Many new freshers may be reading this and worrying about whether they made their life-long friends during Freshers’ Week, especially as this is the first Week 0 at Warwick. Having a rather different time at university did not hinder my experience but allowed me to explore what I wanted out of university and be myself instead of following the crowd. While it is tempting to go on a week-long bender because your new friends are doing the same or feel depressed when you don’t make best friends in your first few weeks, university is a chance to make a fresh start and explore your interests and talents. My unconventional first year taught me that, in fact, everyone’s first year is unconventional and for that reason you should try to embrace it!