This September, hundreds of thousands of first-year students will take their first steps into uni life via Freshers – a rite of passage. But with COVID-19 disrupting last years’ Freshers period, it’s likely that they’ll be joined by existing students from older year groups who missed out the first time around.
We spoke to Joe, 23, an occupational therapy student, to find out how he plans to make up for lost time – and what he’ll be looking out for in Freshers 2021.
Can you remember what you were most excited about before you started uni?
Just a completely different experience than what I’d done before. I’d done A levels, and I’d done a bit of work before I went to university. So I was just excited about that whole kind of environment because it was so new to me.
What were you most nervous about?
Ironically, the same thing that I was most looking forward to, because it’s the unknown. You build up this picture in your head and usually, the thought is much worse than the reality. So as much as I was looking forward to it, I was also quite anxious because it’s just so different.
And how has COVID affected your studies over the past year?
It’s been quite a challenge to be fair. Because I do a part-time course, I started last January. So I had two months where I felt confident, I knew what I was doing, I was on the ball 100% – and then it was lockdown.
Since last March, we’ve been on campus twice – which has been quite challenging in itself. We’ve moved away from practical lessons. In occupational therapy, we cover some anatomical processes and things like that. So it always helps to look at a skeleton, to picture it in your mind. You know, that’s my learning style – I’m more of a kinesthetic learner. Doing and discussing suits me more than going through a PowerPoint. So it’s been quite challenging.
Thinking about Freshers – did you get to attend events (either virtual or in-person) during Freshers?
For us [January starters] there weren’t any – we were going to join up with the starters in September. And yeah, that didn’t happen, unfortunately. So I think if anything it will be this September, which will be like a year and a half into our course. We’re gonna join up with the new full-timers that started in September.
What did you buy before you started uni? What did you buy once you’d arrived?
So I bought loads of [computer] parts because I built my own computer. I also bought a laptop. I bought my rucksack from my laptop, bought loads of stationery, you know, so like, colour-coded pens, post-it notes, and then all that kind of jazz. Different notebooks, folders for my uni work. Boxes to put the archived folders in. So yeah, just stuff like that – studious kinds of things that sound really mundane. But it gives me great pleasure to have it all colour-coded.
Do you remember any brands promoting themselves specifically to students during Freshers?
Not so much on campus. I think the only brand really was Sage, which gave free shipping on their journals and things like that. But online, there was quite a push. I think at the time it was Microsoft that was pushing quite a lot of things for their Surface and Surface Pro and things like that, as well as Apple pushing their MacBooks. And what else? HP was pushing their laptops as well. And there was lots of fashion as well – Levi’s and Doctor Martens, which suits me perfectly as well, JD sports, which is something that I frequent more than I should!
What do you look for in a brand?
For me, it’s the environmental standpoint, and the ethical standpoint – I have a strong moral compass. Where I can, I am vegan – I avoid palm oil, I try to think about the infrastructure as a whole. So if something’s more ‘green’, for lack of a better phrase, it’s ethically produced and environmentally sound, that instantly makes me more likely to buy it, because I’m interested in that. Because if a company is genuinely invested in being environmentally friendly and treating their employees well, and things like that, it means a lot to me, because I know how I like to be treated. So yeah, that’s the thing that I think stands out to me most.
Joe isn’t alone in wanting to take part in Freshers 2021. 80% of returning students say they plan to take part in Freshers events this autumn. Make sure you’re ready for them with our Freshers Guide for Marketers.
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