What to Expect during Fresher’s, with Some Advice from My Experience.
Ethan Clark, 2nd Year Economics(almost 3 years ago)
I can remember how I felt after results day last year. With acceptance into Hatfield, I eagerly tried to find out as much as I could about what I was going to experience. Unfortunately, last year the online material covering Hatfield and the Durham fresher’s week was somewhat lacking. The YouTube videos showing the college were dated, and I couldn’t even find the online blog. So, if your reading this on the new website, we’re doing something right.
This blog post is to give you a little insight into fresher’s week at Hatfield with some advice from my experience last year. What I would like to make clear to you straight away is that fresher’s week at Durham is very different to other universities, different but certainly not bad. Your fresher’s week will mainly be based in and around Hatfield, therefore your first impression of Durham will be completely different to someone else’s at another college. Fresher’s may not be the “best week of your life”, as it wasn’t for me. I found the month or so, after exams, far more enjoyable with more time to relax and enjoy Durham as a city.
Friends of mine, at other universities, started earlier (mid-September mostly) and their fresher’s week experience was more in line of what you would imagine fresher’s week to be. At Durham, however, depending on your subject, you may have work prior to starting or to be completed during fresher’s week (yes really, we had a test in economics). Perhaps you get lucky with your subject and have it easy, unfortunately I did not. The work however, isn’t too bad, but was still a little jarring when I arrived with the preconception of partying all night, getting in at around 6am, waking up in the afternoon, and repeating all week. Each college will do things differently, but here at Hatfield we do maintain tradition. I don’t want to spoil anything major, but be prepared for a shock and believe everything on the fresher’s week schedule you receive when you arrive.
During the week, you will have talks about each module of your course, helping you to decide what to choose with a deadline towards the end of the week. Each module will have essential textbooks you will need to buy, usually 2/3 per module, these are very expensive online, and are best purchased from second years. I would advise buying 1 essential textbook for each module, maybe 2 for a couple of core modules, but never 3 (save some money and use the libraries). Whatever the case be prepared to spend at least £100 on text books alone.
Sports clubs (for uni or college) are a great way to make friends, especially on socials throughout the year. During the sports fair join absolutely any you want; I would recommend joining DUSSC (ski and snowboard) even if you can’t ski as they have some of the best socials throughout the year. Also, the Palatinalps ski trip in January is fantastic, and a great price for beginners. About 1500 students from Durham go, but don’t go by coach (I did even though it’s cheaper), I will be flying next year!
The clubs and societies fair is on a separate day and you will inevitably join loads of different clubs, which I would recommend doing. If you want different social scenes outside of sports, it’s the best time to get involved, also there is lots of handy free stuff given out. I’m not a huge drinker but the alcohol societies tend to have lots of socials throughout the year and heavy drinking certainly isn’t a requirement. The fair goes on for hours so I’d recommend turning up closer to the end to avoid the queues.
Matriculation could be at any time during the week dependent on how the colleges are divided. It’s performed in the cathedral where you wear your gowns, and marks the beginning of your time as a Durham student. At Hatfield, you are free to engage with college life as much or as little as you want. I would encourage being involved to get the most out of Hatfield and Durham, but the choice is completely yours.
The number of new people and the new accommodation may indeed be overwhelming at first. If you have a roommate, you may not even meet on the first day or even get along too well. If you have any problems at all, the college will try and do everything to make you as happy as possible. Some items I would recommend bringing would be; a doorstop (a great way to get to know people on your staircase better during fresher’s), a printer, a speaker, playing cards, plastic cups, and a Halloween costume (many socials will have a dress theme but can be improvised easily). The university Wi-Fi will block online for games consoles but work fine for PC’s.
The weather in Durham is all over the place, so bring clothes to cover all bases. Not too helpful I know, but other than rain its anyone’s guess up here. Going out clothes and shoes are casual (I was overdressed when I first went out), Klute will ruin any nice shoes, just play it safe until you get a feel for the standard of dress. Be sure to bring formal dress for balls and Hatfield formals (suit hire in Durham is also very expensive). Be prepared, if you use the staircase kitchens, some of your food will undoubtedly be stolen by other students which can’t be helped, unfortunately.
Almost everyone will feel like visiting home after a month or so. I thought I wouldn’t, but the allure of home will hit you about half way through each term. I’d recommend looking at train times for around mid/late November soon after you arrive, to save some money. Try your very best to not get ill throughout the year at Durham. Although the fresher’s cough is guaranteed for the first few weeks, do everything in your power not to have to suffer the awfully busy GPs in Durham or the horrible hospital experience I had to endure at the end of fresher’s week. Have fun for sure, but don’t do anything too stupid and get yourself hurt or injured. Trust me, a broken collarbone can pretty much ruin a year at uni.
To be frank, Durham clubs are not great. Especially if you are someone used to a good club scene or have been to some quality places in the UK or abroad. The clubs in Durham open around 11pm and close at 2am (short and sweet you could say). Yet everyone here at Durham is in the same position and you will come to accept and enjoy the lower quality of clubs, Klute especially. I was warned of the low-quality nightlife in Durham during one of the open days but comforted by Newcastle being only 15 mins away on the train. Unfortunately, going out in Newcastle is far easier in 2nd year, and you will most definitely not go anywhere near Newcastle during fresher’s week.
During fresher’s week nights out everyone will be kept with their college, and colleges mostly kept separate from one another (most Durham clubs wouldn’t be able to handle multiple colleges all turning up at the same time). Thankfully, all the clubs are very close to Hatfield, a 10-minute walk max, but if you do need to go to the hill colleges (for any reason) it’s useful to know taxis are expensive in Durham. Trips back from Newcastle especially are very expensive by taxi (unless split between a big enough group) it’s probably the main reason I’d recommend staying local, but you could always power through for the first train back. Bar crawls between colleges however are great and far more fun than the actual clubs. There may be a few towards the end of the fresher’s week but loads in the following weeks (bar crawls are usually integrated well on club socials). Durham locals are not keen on students at all, make sure you do not enter any locals only bars, keep to the college bars until you know your way around. Fresher’s week is the best time in the entire year to get to know other people in Hatfield, whether you stay in college or go out in the evenings, do make the most of it.
I had my problems during fresher’s week and first impressions do have a huge impact, but it is just a week and not the end of the world if you don’t have an amazing time. I don’t think I spoke to a single frep during fresher’s week, but if you have any questions or concerns do not hesitate to ask anyone of us, we’re there to help you have a great time and settle into life at Hatfield. Of course, I hope you do have a great time and end up loving Hatfield as much as I do.