Bringing the learning home (Australian Learning & Teaching Council)

Fresher’s week at University in the UK: New Experiences

Hi all. My name is Maureen and I am on exchange at the University of Lancaster. I’m still settling in but one of the things I wanted to blog about was things that have been new to me so far. It’s been a bit of a honeymoon period for me as of now because of all the fresher’s events on in the week… quiz games, bar crawls in Lancaster, Indie clubbing in Manchester and dress ups. All this stuff is obviously new because we don’t have freshmen in Australia.

However, the extra weird/new thing for me is that all the fresher events are organised by the college you live in. It’s like Hogwart’s or something here. There’s about eight different colleges and the rivalry between each is really really intense. It’s like your whole university identity is defined by your college rather than your faculty (as it would be in Australia).

Me dressed in my College shirt for a bar crawl. Our flat decided to go for an 80’s look.

if a person is unfortunate enough not to live on campus (most people do), they get defined by the region they come from. Speaking of regions, there’s alot of rivalry between regions too. My room mates tell me the North of England is practically a whole other country to the South. There’s one guy from Birmingham in my flat and he gets insulted all the time because he’s from the ‘posh’ part of the UK.

Finally, last new thing: sharing a bathroom, shower and kitchen with thirteen other people… this? New and not so fun.


3 responses

  1. Hi Maureen, and thanks for the update!

    I’m struck by the initiation-like dimensions of university life that you’re describing: the ‘fresher events,’ the inter-college rivalry. It sounds a bit like American universities, which play such a different role in students’ lives than Australian universities, in part because they signal a departure from family life, where you go off to live on your own (or with the thirteen people who share your bathroom). It’s a really different social dynamic to Australia, where so many of the students still live at home and go to school close by.

    I’ll be interested to see what you think later, as you get used to this style of social separation, where people go off and get jumbled into shared housing with other students from all over the place. It will be familiar to students in other countries but unusual for many Australian students.

    October 9, 2010 at 6:48 am

    • Maureen

      I spoke to my Canadian and US flat mates about their experience of Fresher’s Week and while they all agreed on the fact that fresher’s was an initiation into college, they all found its implementation to be different and so Fresher’s in the UK felt quite different.

      This is because in Canada the legal drinking age is 19, and in the US it is 21. Universities cannot legally sanction a Fresher’s Week that allows drinking because too many people would be underage (especially in the US).

      Hence, Fresher’s Week is more about group challanges and activities rather than clubs and bars like it seems to be here in the UK.

      October 12, 2010 at 4:46 pm

  2. Jan Gothard

    Hi Maureen

    I went to the ANU in Canberra, a few decades ago now, and it was very much a university for out of town kids – there were few Canberra kids there (I think they all escaped to Sydney) and most people seemed to come from outside and to live in Halls of residence, so we had a really big Hall tradition – sports teams, Hall balls, really fierce rivalries. I left university having met very few people who didnt live in my own Hall – it was the focus of my entire (very narrow) university existence. But yes, it is unusual for Australian students – and you are so right about the Hogwarts atmosphere, to which you could add, the boarding school mentality!

    Seems like a wonderful environment for an exchange student, with every Fresher in the same boat, knowing no one else, but how do you think you would cope in a hall or college for a whole degree? Do you think students grow up faster in that away-from-home environment? Is there much of that US fraternity-style hazing? or does being in a co-ed environment prohibit that? woud be interested to know how it goes!

    I’d also be interested in hearing from students about fraternities and sororities, which seem so foreign to Australian students. Any experiences in that area?

    October 12, 2010 at 11:13 am

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