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Why 'Welcome Week' Can Still Be Awesome

Dom Smith looks at 'Welcome Week' from a different angle, explaining why freshers have a lot to be excited about... even this year.

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Image Credit: Luke Snell - The Forest

There’s an old saying: ‘You can still enjoy Freshers’ Week at York during a global pandemic.’

OK, there isn’t really. But there should be.

I loved my first week at Uni when I moved into the picturesque '60s architecture of Derwent College last year. One minute, five eager STYCs were running away with my belongings, up what seemed like hundreds of flights of stairs I’d never seen before. The next, they were ensuring all seven nights ended at Maccies after an evening in a cram-packed club somewhere in York. It was like the fun was never going to end.

But it did end. It ended seven times. Always the following day. And usually the following morning (although surfacing in the afternoon was also known to happen). Occasionally, the magical powers of paracetamol were called into emergency action. Basically, for all the drinking and dancing that unravelled each night, there was a price to pay the following day. If I’m honest, I didn’t engage with many of the daytime Freshers’ events — due in no small part to the lingering tiredness and hangovers that I could see I wasn’t the only one experiencing.

In that respect then, my Freshers’ Week resembled more of a boozed-up trip to Ibiza than a time of meeting new friends and preparing to study at one of the UK’s leading universities. If only you could be discovering what the York night life is like this year… but we all know that you can’t, and we all know why.

Fear not, though. Where the government have dashed our dreams, YUSU have — in fairness — put in good work to make ‘Welcome Week’ as big an event as possible. ‘The Forest’ is the headline attraction — an all new festival-style outside bar made from tipis and yurts. In addition, Courtyard and Glasshouse have both been extended in size and will host regular live music acts. The seating capacity among YUSU bars across campus will exceed 1400, with each table open to up to six people and each bar to close at 10pm, as per the UK’s current Covid guidelines. What’s more, most of the bars will continue their enhanced capacities throughout the first semester, and some through the whole year.

On a totally different theme, many of the daytime activities set up for Welcome Week offer great opportunities to get to know new friends, as well as the local area. If clubbing wasn’t your thing anyway, perhaps a scavenger hunt or a rounders match is. The more the merrier with these events. All of these activities are there to help you settle into a totally new life in a different corner of the country or, for some, a different corner of the world.

The final reason why Freshers’ Week in 2020 can still be ace is that you can make of it what you want. Previous years have seen clubbing dominate the week’s schedule. This year, however, you could use the surreal circumstances we all find ourselves in to take the reigns of your own Welcome Week a bit more. Plan trips into town, play games in your flat, discover which societies are the best for you, and take walks around both campuses.

Here’s your chance. Here’s your chance to meet new people, make friends, join the York family, discover what the city and the campus have to offer, and hopefully laugh a bit along the way too. So, go, stay safe and enjoy.

P.S. Chundering is overrated, anyway. Trust me.

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