I came to Birmingham almost three years ago now, not really knowing what to expect - having lived in Cornwall for the previous 8 years, I was both extremely excited and nervous to leave the comfort of my home town and venture into the big city. As soon as I had moved into halls, I instantly knew this was the place for me. I remember looking out of window and seeing a massive BBQ, welcoming music and (obviously) the infamous FREE STUFF.
My first contact was with my hall reps (or Residents' Associations, as we call them at Birmingham!) who instantly answered my questions, made me feel welcome and got me talking to another group of freshers who later went on to become my best friends. I would like to think this is a typical story of most people's first few days at Birmingham. Why am I so confident about this? Well, three years later I'm seeing directly just how much planning, thought and enthusiasm goes into Welcome Week in my role as Guild President!
I came to University with what I soon learnt were fairly commons concerns - will I make friends? Will I get lost in such a big city? What if no-one brings a kettle?! When you're living somewhere new, little worries quickly become big ones. What makes Birmingham so great, though, is that these issues are being addressed even before people move into their new halls. We've got an app to help connect new hallmates and our Student Mentors to help people put together a code of conduct for their flat (so no arguments about that washing up or dodgy cheese in the fridge!), so hopefully we've ticked off at least some concerns about living arrangements!
So many people associate Freshers' Week with massive parties and heavy drinking, but that's a pretty outdated stereotype of student life! Yes, we've got a packed week of clubbing and live acts going on - but we've also got hundreds of other events and there are so many opportunities to meet people who want to do the same things as you do!
It's genuinely surprising how much is going on during your first few weeks of University - there's Sports Fair (covering everything from Rugby to Cheerleading!) and Societies Fairs (to meet people who want to bake, make cocktails, recreate battles, get sorted into a Hogwarts House, raise money for charity in a giraffe onesie or even give a Brum Dine with Me a go!) and the Freshers' Fair freebies for starters!
After the first week, it all starts to calm down a bit. Lectures began and I faced my second university challenge - dragging myself out of bed at 8:30am to make my 9am lecture! Again I was met with the exact same enthusiasm from the lecturers who were very keen to get people talking with others on their course and start discussing the very first topic of the year.
After the first two weeks, the rest of term just flies by - you may get more involved in sports clubs and societies, become an RA or Student Rep for your course and then, before you know, it your first piece of work is due in. But again there's absolutely no need to panic! For those who haven't really written an essay in a certain format before help is widely available from your Personal Tutor to our Advice Centre. The Guild (like Students' Union's at most other universities) offers not only a huge range of activities and entertainment, but also an incredible amount of support. We have a dedicated team of advisors who all work together to help with academic, financial, housing issues and more. On top of this, a team of RAs and Student Mentors are there to help you and represent you in Halls, so should you have an issue with your flatmates or just your shower there is always someone there to assist you!
In a blink of an eye it was Christmas. 12 Weeks at Birmingham, 3 essays written, 2 societies joined and 1 Residents' Association election won! It was one of the best terms of University and where I started my journey to becoming President of the Students' Union, something I had never imagined doing right back on that first day. If I've learned anything in my three years here, it's the importance of taking a deep breath and giving something a go! So, if you're heading to University this year, get stuck in - try a new sport, join the Zombies vs Aliens Society, run in an election or go on one of the many events offered throughout the term. And if you are struggling, remember that there's always help round the corner. You've got an adventure ahead of you - make the most of it!