Inevitably, we have to acknowledge that Freshers Week this September will look very different to previous years. With the university announcement of the COVID code, confirming 3 households in groups of 8 indoors and 15 outdoors as the limits for acceptable gatherings, some areas of university life may look a little different for a while. The university and students are still in the process of finalising information about elements of student life such as sports clubs and library accessibility. Hence, first years may be facing a more daunting and uncertain Freshers Week. However, it is in the best interests of everyone to
try and make Freshers Week the most enjoyable experience possible.

University staff and students are currently working hard to prepare various online Freshers events. Both the orientation app and Your Union Events will be updated with events during the lead up to Freshers Week. The orientation app in particular will have useful information about the administrative side of things that you will have to complete during Freshers Week such as matriculation.

There has also been a Microsoft teams ‘Countdown to St Andrews’ which has been hosting various online events and Q&A sessions with university societies and clubs whilst students have been isolating, and many of those events are recorded for viewing later if you missed them.

Socialising and Online Events

The usual scene of everyone congregating in a very crowded 601 may seem like a distant memory, but there are still ways to socialise in a COVID-friendly fashion. Whilst socialising online may seem far from ideal, all first years are in the same boat so there will be no shortage of people to get to know during online events.

If you use Facebook, the Class of 2024 group would be an incredibly useful resource for Freshers Week. Various societies, committees and sports clubs will be posting in the group to recruit new members and reach out to first years. The page will also be full of links to group chats for courses which is helpful for getting to know others on your course.

Societies and committees will still be hosting various events to engage new students. It is definitely worth attending as many as possible so that you can get a good sense of what you’re interested in. Friendships can also be established online through these events, as you can arrange to meet up with people you meet during them.

Sports in Freshers Week

Sports clubs can be an integral part of university experience and a great way to get involved and put yourself out there during Freshers Week.

Students are still awaiting information about how sports clubs will function and have ‘give it a go’ opportunities. However, Saints Sport have been hard at work planning sports fayres both in-person and online to accommodate everyone. These will allow for both new and old students to talk to different clubs to figure out what they would be interested in joining.

The virtual sports fayre will be run on September 12th.

The in-person sports fayres will run:
– 7th September: 10am-1pm
– 8th September: 2pm-5.30pm

So everyone will still have an opportunity to find the right club for them regardless of their quarantining situation or comfort-level with attending (socially-distanced) events.

Also, the gym has now re-opened with restriction in place, Saints Sport have produced a Youtube video to outline the new guidance for using the gym. Gym memberships can now be purchased with options for semester, year or sports club membership on the Saints Sport website.

Academic families

You will most likely be familiar with the concept of academic families if you have heard anything about St Andrews traditions. To summarise: third years typically pair up as academic parents and ‘adopt’ first years to celebrate Raisin weekend, which has been moved to second semester this academic year in light of COVID. Given that first years are often adopted on nights out in Freshers Week, I can imagine that some may feel nervous about finding academic families in the current environment.

However, for every first year worrying about not finding an academic family in these strange circumstances, there are third years plotting various ways to recruit them for their families. You will find each other. Whether that be through the academic family finder on teams or through Facebook groups and society/sports events. Additionally, it’s important to note that the idea that everyone is adopted in Freshers Week is a total myth, so don’t worry if you find yourself without a family at the end of the week.

As someone who was adopted on a night out in Freshers Week and ended up later joining another family with people I had gotten to know better, I am a big advocate for finding a family through other means. Joining a family at random in the darkness of 601 is arguably not the most sure-fire way of finding a family that you share common interests with.

Online events with societies and sports clubs are likely to be good centres for adoption and I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if third years become so bold as to attempt to recruit first years (from a social distance) on Market Street.

Life in Halls of Residence

Moving into halls during Freshers Week can be both an incredibly exciting and nerve-wracking experience, meeting people as you set up base for your first year of university. Unfortunately, as with other aspects of university, life in halls is likely to look significantly different for a while. However there should be flexibility to socialise under the COVID code laid out by the university. The application of household rules will vary slightly between halls, so you will need to check your emails for specific information about guidance for socialising. However, these guidelines will still allow for a degree of socialisation within halls.

The best advice I can think of for finding friends in halls is to say hi (again, whilst maintaining a distance) to absolutely everyone you come across. This is a guaranteed way to become acquainted with more people, especially since everyone in halls will be eager to meet others around them and so will appreciate you initiating that interaction. The friendships that can be founded in Freshers Week are worth the awkwardness that you may feel when striking up a conversation with a total stranger. After the initial nervous awkwardness of that first encounter you will hopefully feel more comfortable with that person. It’s always easy to start with the classic “What’s your name? Where are you from? What do you study?” Most of the greatest friendships in St Andrews have been founded upon a similar conversation opener.

The secret to success this Freshers Week will most likely be enthusiastic and patient engagement with online events and putting yourself out there as much as possible (even if it is over Teams). Others are in the same position and will be just as eager to meet you as you are to meet them. Take comfort in the fact that you will all feel equally apprehensive about finding friends and your place in university during these, dare I say, unprecedented times.