Saturday, September 25, 1999 Published at 02:31 GMT 03:31 UK
Finding your feet in freshers' week
Teetotal: the Sikh Society signing up new recruits
By News Online's Alison Stenlake
Alcohol, sex and endless parties - most people's idea of a typical freshers' week at university.
And yes, all of that is on the agenda in varying quantities, depending on who you speak to.
But most first years are after a bit more out of their initiation into the world of higher education, and nowadays, many are as keen to get their first part-time job as they are their student union membership card.
Some also say that while they want to party, they realise the importance of working hard, and are all too aware that getting a job at the end of it all is not guaranteed.
That said, freshers' weeks which are currently being held and prepared across the UK are mainly about meeting new people and having fun.
No lectures start until next week, so that new students have enough time to settle in, make friends, and work out their timetables.
Parties on a range of themes (70s, toga, foam) are being held every night, and every morning, a large number of freshers, many of whom are away from home for the first time, are waking up with hangovers from hell.
However, on Friday they still managed to drag themselves to the freshers' fayre, one of the week's main focal points.
The chief purpose of such things is for a student union's clubs and societies to sign up new members, and for new students to pick up useful information, advice, and "freebies".
A range of commercial interests were also represented, with mobile phone companies, banks and health clubs offering cheap deals and free gifts to new students.
Despite the denials of some, sex still plays a large role in the lives of many students, as recent research has suggested.
Some even admit to having unprotected sex, despite the knowing the risks. In the words of one male student: "When you're at university you don't care."
Among the "freebies" being handed out to those wandering around the displays were information packs, containing free condoms, from the Wolverton Centre for Sexual Health, which runs weekly clinics at the university.
Dr Harry Trakoshis, who was manning the centre's stand, said: "This is about getting the students to know we exist, and telling them about the services we offer.
New financial pressures facing students were also at the fayre, with the university's career service handing out copies of its fortnightly bulletin containing details of part-time jobs available in the area.
Careers assistant Lorraine Guyett said: "It's become necessary for more students to work now, with the introduction of tuition fees and the abolition of grants.
"Students come to university knowing they've got to work to support themselves, which can be scary. They know they can come out with debts of between £8,000 and £10,000 at the end of it all."
But how do Kingston's newest wave of freshers feel, and what are their main priorities?
Simon Pitman, 21, who has joined Kingston for a year to convert his HND in business administration into a degree, said: "The thing I'm most worried about is getting home when I'm really drunk as I'm living in quite a rough area.
"I'm enjoying things so far, although there are too many nice women around!
For Simon's friend and coursemate Michael Kjaer, 23, from Denmark, his first week in Kingston is also his first experience of living in England.
Michael said he had finished with his girlfriend of two years before starting university, and was already looking to "pull" someone else.
Sociology student Suzanne Ray, 18, admitted that her chief concern at the moment was meeting people and having a good social life.
"I'm not too worried about money as my parents are paying for me, but I have got to get a job as I can't ask them for money all the time," she said.
Her friend Anju Madar, 18, said: "I really want to pass my course - that's my main priority.
"I want to work hard as well as have fun. Your years at university are supposed to be the best in your life, but I want to keep things in proportion."
Oliver Marsh, 20, and Matt Hiley, 25, both studying computer information systems and design, said they were having a great time.
However lack of money was an important issue for both of them, as they both left full-time jobs to attend university.
"But during freshers' week you do need to go out and meet people. If you isolate yourself now, you could end up being very lonely."
Oliver said: "I thinking drinking and debauchery has definitely got to be a part of freshers' week, although I don't know about the sex - we're not getting any!"
Union President Arabella Webb-Martin has been overseeing the freshers' week operations.
"The main aim of the week is to get all the students involved and get them to meet each other," she said.
"The freshers' fayre gives them an introduction to the union, who we are and what services we provide.
"I think the image that some people have of new students is wrong in many cases.
"Some probably do drink to excess, as it's their first time away from home, but most people are just trying to meet new people and have a good time.
"I think it's also a myth about freshers being promiscuous - it might have been true some years ago, but it's not really the case now. People are a lot more aware of sexual issues.
"I think the most important thing for new students to do during freshers week is to go out to the bars and meet people, and get involved in clubs and societies, which is a brilliant chance to get involved in the union."
The National Union of Students provides help and advice for students on welfare and financial matters.
It came up with the following tips to help freshers survive their first week:
1. Set yourself a budget for the week. At all costs do not spend half your student loan on freshers' week. Pick the events that are most up your street.
2. Try to make contact with students you recognise from your course or your halls - chat to people you will actually see again.
3. By all means join clubs and socieites but think carefully which ones you are likely to keep up with as opposed to the ones which sound the most wacky.
4. Make a list of all the administrative/course issues you need to sort out and tick them off day by day. By all means have fun in the evenings, but getting your course sorted is more important.
5. If you are living in halls off campus it may be better to go to events at halls as these are the people you will be seeing the most of.