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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 October, 2004, 09:52 GMT 10:52 UK
Freshers - the year begins
Starting university is bewildering but exciting
The university year is starting for hundreds of thousands of students.

For freshers - those in their first year - the pressure is on. Academic demands, socialising and money worries can make it a challenging time.

BBC News Online has asked freshers from around Britain to share their experiences. Compiled by Justin Parkinson.

Ceri Herbert, electronic engineering, Imperial College London

Ceri Herbert
I'm currently living in the Welsh countryside just outside of Cardiff, so I'm really excited to be starting my degree in the buzzing metropolis of London.

I love my life back at home, but at the same time I just can't wait to get away. The experience of going to uni itself won't be too much of a shock to the system (hopefully), as I've already lived away from home this summer, had a job, had to look after myself - although it's fair to say it's an art I haven't quite honed yet, as evidenced by my awful cooking.

The toughest things for me about going to uni will probably be missing my friends, boyfriend and family. I like to think I'd be able to budget well, but I can see boozy nights out in the union being too tempting. Finding a job will be high on my list of priorities once I get there; one or two nights a week.

Edward Guerra, teaching, Glasgow University

Edward Guerra

I am a freshly divorced 37 year old who is coming through a fairly unpleasant couple of years to restart a life/career. In the last year I've found it necessary to sit down and consider what it is about life and my previous work experience that I've enjoyed.

The common thread which links it all together is my engaging and imparting fresh ideas and novel knowledge to people and being witness to their enlightenment.

So, feeling rather stupid for not doing it earlier, I applied for a PGCE (Post-Graduate Certificate in Education) in teaching secondary school maths, at the University of Glasgow.

Perhaps it could be seen as a mid-life crisis but, to be frank, I cannot define when this feeling started.

Lauren Cragg, sports science, Leeds University

Lauren Cragg

The thought of university excited me tremendously for about a year, but the week before leaving was the most frightening one of my life.

I wanted to study sport and exercise science at Birmingham University but only managed to get grades B, B and C and not the three Bs they were asking for.

After a lot of disappointment I decided to go through clearing and got myself a place at Leeds studying sport science and physiology.

I have been placed on the Wakefield Campus, about 10 miles (apparently) from Leeds University. I am waiting for accommodation to become available in Leeds, but for now I have to wake up ridiculously early to catch the 7.30am bus, which can take up to an hour (who said students sleep all day?). On the positive side though, being stuck on a bus gives us all time to get to know each other better and I've met some great people that way.

I'm enjoying being with my flat mates, I've been lucky to get such a good bunch of people to live with. It is difficult to be part of the buzzing freshers atmosphere as a taxi to Leeds can cost as much as 30 one way.

Overall it's mixed, but still there's no place like home.

Tim Jarvis, Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic, Cambridge University

Tim Jarvis
I'm a confident 19 year old who has lived the last four years doing many different activities. I have been told I try to cram too many things into my life but I thrive on being busy, work best under pressure and argue that if everything is done very well then it can't be too much to manage.

I know that I am a perfectionist but very amiable too. I am also sporty and I look forward to playing squash and trying my hand at rowing when I go to Cambridge.

I am going to university to continue my studies of history to a much deeper level, specialising in the era that fascinates me most and will have the chance to make use of my natural language skills and look forward to the independence I will have and the money-handling and time-management skills that I'll hone. Education doesn't only happen in the classroom.

Gawain Williams, history and politics, Essex University

Gawain Williams

I've always been a mellow guy, except for those times when you've got to rock and roll - which is, by chance, the music I love. I'm a big lad, which drew me towards rugby.

I'm off to Essex University to start a modern history and politics course. A lot of my mates are already scattered across the land and they, combined with many elders, reassure me it will be the best time of my life.

I feel a bit hot-blooded. Maybe it's the youth in my veins combined with a good lashing of Irish blood but it feels like there so much wrong these days from politics to everything else.

It's as if we need to start anew. That's a big reason I'm going to university; not for the laughs, women and student bars.

Arabella Penwarden, nursing, Plymouth University

Arabella Penwarden

I am 23 years old and live with my partner in Exeter, and until last year I had only ever worked in the theatre. I started working backstage in London's West End as a member of the stage crew when I was doing my GCSEs. After A-levels I worked full time on a number of West End productions, including Lion King and Mamma Mia, before leaving London to become assistant stage manager at the Oxford Apollo. I spent three years there before deciding to re-train as a nurse.

I have a lot of thoughts about what area I would like to work in, public health, prison nursing and spending time with Medecins Sans Frontieres being only three.

The fresher traditions of getting drunk and staying out every night don't appeal to me, I suppose because I am older and did all of those things when I was 18.

I am very excited about being a student nurse and intend to work hard and get the most possible out of my teaching and clinical placements. I even can't wait to wear my truly ghastly student uniform.

Tom Hitchings, government, London School of Economics

Tom Hitchings

I'll be leaving the quiet seaside town of Exeter and going to live in central London for the next three years. I'm going to the LSE to study government. I'm anticipating the experience will be very intensive and diverse.

I'm studying at a uni where 50% of the students are from overseas, which should be very different from the Devon countryside.

Pete Broadhurst, history, Lampeter College

Pete Broadhurst

I'm a 22-year-old fresher, so I'll just have to get used to feeling old(er). I left school at 16 to train as a mechanical engineer. After a year I was made redundant and moved into structural engineering.

After four years I wanted a change in life, so I'm leaving the safety of home this year to go to Lampeter to study history. I chose history because I wanted to study something I have a passion for.

I'm looking forward to the next three years: a complete change and a totally different way of life.

Neeta Buhecha, politics and German, Nottingham University

I went to university for possibly the worst of reasons: I couldn't think of anything better to do. For me, the whole application system was mind-numbingly dull and I chose my six universities without visiting any - promising myself I would visit my successful choices before I made my final decision. In the end I didn't.

As a native Londoner I'm not new to clubbing and the like, but our reps keep us going with ridiculous drinking games, karaoke and club after club, after club, after club.

Registering has been a bit of a bother - everyone's asking me for paperwork I don't have and passport-sized photographs I haven't taken, but I suppose for the first week it's to be expected.

All in all, I'm not disappointed. But who could be, having come with no expectations and basically no idea of what's going on?

Here are some of your memories of starting university.

I started my degree in 1996 at the University of the West of England at the age of 51. It was a really great, life-changing and empowering experience for me, after being made to leave school at 16 because of sad family circumstances. It was extremely tough at times with family commitments, but, guess what? I'm still there, completing my dissertation part-time for a MSC in Statistics and Management Science. By the way, I have just become a great grandmother so its never too late!
Sonia Garland, Bristol

Two years ago I was starting uni, now I'm starting my final year. Where on earth did the time go!? I think I've learned more about myself than I have about my subject, which has got to be a good thing :-)
Jeremy Harper, Bristol

Going to university was one of the most enjoyable things I've ever done. Uni was a wicked three years - when else do you get the chance to doss around for three years, live with all your mates and go out every other night? The thing I miss the most about uni is the social interaction - being surrounded by lots of people my age. I'd do it again tomorrow if I could.
Tom Calvert, Rochester, UK

I chose to go to St Andrews on blind instinct - I never visited before heading up in September 1995 to read French and German. Fresher's Week 9 years ago seems like a blur, although I must have had a good time - I ended up as best man to a couple who I met and met each other in Fresher's Week a couple of years ago. Contrary to popular belief, you do still know some of the people you meet in Fresher's Week by the time you leave!
Mike Bailey, Vienna

After growing up in Folkestone, I went to Liverpool Uni in 1977. It was a bit of a culture shock but 3 great years ... I even managed to get a degree at the end of it! In those days we got grants (didn't appreciate how lucky we were at the time), so didn't come out with hefty debts.
Jane, Guildford

I started university studies at the age of 24 after a few years in lithographic printing. I was very worried that I would not be able to keep up with the bright kids just out of school. Could hardly have been more wrong. That was 1975. A PhD in genetics and a professorship since 1993; I survived.
Bob Ridge (ex-patriate), Tokyo, Japan

It is 52 years since I started at Imperial College, feeling humble and challenged. I had just turned 17, the full county scholarship had been given with caution (usually an entering student had to be 18 or older). Quickly I found I loved it, despite the struggle, or perhaps because of it, and I delighted in my classmates, as colourful a group as one could wish. The cultural opportunities of London were terrific.

Six years later I left London with what turned out to be my first doctorate (two more earned later). My operational principle was to treat my academic record up to each point I reached simply as a ticket admitting me to the next round of challenge, and I would seek learning especially from the best I could find. I keep learning (research and teaching), I return to many locations and events I enjoyed five decades back (such as the Proms), and the British Museum - knowing now what was given to it by relatives in the 19th Century. For me, going to university was truly the right thing to do. Advice to freshers: have confidence in yourselves, and be prepared to back that up with sustained, effective study while finding enjoyment in life.
Peter Richardson, East Coast US

I am a 19-year-old fresher. I am studying BSc accounting for management at Aston university. I live on campus and right now I am having a good time. Initially when I reached the UK I had a tough time because I was away from my loving parents, but now I am trying my best to adjust to this western environment.
Anas Abbas, Birmingham

I went to St Peter's teachers' training college in Birmingham, 1961. I walked into my small spartan room, sat down and thought "freedom at last".
Roy Smith, Vancouver, Canada

The most important word you will learn at university is "plagiarism". It is a valuable skill that shows initiative.
JH, Sheffield

Young Ones or rich kids?
01 Oct 04 |  Magazine


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