Students around the world are preparing and waiting in anticipation for the upcoming academic year. For first-year students and international students attending university, it can be particularly daunting. However, universities and colleges across Ireland have created freshers’ week, which introduces new students to the campus and to university life. Usually, this week is the first week of term and it allows for students to get to know their peers outside of an academic setting.
Throughout freshers’ week campuses across Ireland are transformed into a hive of activity. While each university puts its own spin on freshers’ you can be reassured that there are many social events, introductions and countless freebies to be had. Although Ireland is renowned for its drinking culture, freshers’ week isn’t just a week-long party, as with workshops, skill-building classes and numerous hands-on activities there is so much more to be had than just a hangover! Freshers’ week will be different this year due to COVID-19 and each university is making the necessary adjustments to the usual on-campus events so that you can still have a fantastic introduction to the world of university.
Here are five hallmarks of Ireland’s freshers’ week, and how they might be different this year.
Students adore free stuff, so what better way to be welcomed into third-level education than with a bag full of it! These welcome packs are usually put together by the Students’ Union team who themselves are students, so they know exactly what students want and need for starting in university. Including everything from free pens, event and social calendars, vouchers for nearby takeaways and restaurants to condoms, bottle openers and student planners.
As returning to a fully-on campus learning environment is currently off the cards due to COVID-19, many colleges across Ireland are adapting their infamous welcome packs. While some colleges are opting to create virtual freshers’ packs, others are still offering physical ones to new students. The physical welcome packs will include all the usual bits but this year they are also to include hand sanitiser and masks. Strict protocols are to be in place surrounding the creation and distribution of these welcome packs in line with COVID-19 guidelines.
Probably one of the most helpful aspects of Freshers’ Week is that you get a guided tour of the facilities and grounds. Those giving the tours are students who know the ins and outs of the inner workings of the college. They will give you tips and tricks on how to unjam the printer and point you in the direction of where you can get the best coffee (trust me these are essentials). These guided tours will tell you everything like how to access the gym, how to check-out books from the library and where your lecturers’ offices are.
As the number of students on-campus is limited due to COVID-19, in-person guided tours are mostly a thing of the past. Instead, colleges across the country are creating virtual and video tours of the campus so that you can explore from the comfort of your accommodation. This will be extremely helpful when people can return to the campus as you can quickly and virtually figure out how to get somewhere, without looking lost! Some colleges are even in the process of creating fun tours using the platform TikTok.
One of the highlights of heading off to university is the likeminded people you will befriend. Undoubtedly, the best way to meet likeminded people is through joining the various clubs and societies. With clubs and societies for just about everything, you are sure to find your people!
Throughout freshers’ week, the different clubs and societies set up a stall and showcase what they have to offer. You can ask questions, learn about the upcoming events and trips and also sign up to become a member of that club or society. Various clubs and societies also use this opportunity to show off their skills with various events, such as historical re-enactments and gymnastic displays. You are bound to leave the fair with a handful of pens, a bagful of leaflets and a jam-packed schedule.
Normally you would almost have to shove your way through the crowd to get to the sign-up table but with the COVID-19 situation ongoing, colleges are opting to move this fair online. Many colleges will be implementing an online club and societies fair through Zoom, in which people can learn about what is on offer. In some cases, clubs and societies have been allocated extra funding so that they can create better online facilities and keep students in the loop.
Usually, the various departments organise for there to be a class night out during freshers’ week. Here students have the opportunity to meet their peers in a less formal setting, while also getting to know the best places for pints in the area. More often than not, the night begins in the student centre where the students are encouraged to bring their own drink. The Students’ Union often supplies pizza or other food along with plenty of fun and games. The night then continues with a walk to students’ favourite pubs and bars where there are usually student deals or free drink vouchers. These class nights out are so much fun as you end up leaving with lifelong friends usually in the early morning.
Currently, there are restrictions in place regarding how pubs and bars operate in Ireland due to COVID-19. With these restrictions in place, class nights out will have to be on hold for now. However, colleges are ensuring that students have the opportunity to meet their classmates safely. Some colleges are planning for socially distant coffee evenings and movie nights. While others are bringing back the Zoom quizzes and games that were omnipresent at the start of lockdown.
The most memorable aspect of freshers’ week is often the on-campus events that are held. With everything from cookery demonstrations, to exhibitions, concerts, and participatory events there is always something to watch or become a part of during freshers’ week. With pizza-eating competitions, magicians and colour run just to name a few you are bound to find something to rope your newfound friends into. Workshops are also held throughout the week with workshops on consent, the environment and technology.
Unfortunately, the majority of these on-campus events will be moved online until the easing of restrictions. Zoom and live streaming will be commonplace for hosting these events for the duration of freshers’ week. Students’ Unions across the country will be holding virtual events such as zoom speed friending, which will be very important for new incoming students.