Advice for Welcome Week from SOAS students

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Whether you’re in London or studying from home this term, starting university can be a bit daunting – but it’s also hugely exciting, and a time to make the most of the student experience.

This year, Welcome Week is online – but that doesn’t mean it’s not going to be a great start to your time at SOAS. There are sessions on everything from critical thinking to making the most of online learning.

We asked some SOAS students about their own experiences of Welcome Week, starting life at SOAS, and what advice they have to new students beginning their studies this September. (Obviously, things will look a little different this year, given the current Covid guidelines!)

Aapurv, Lulu, Badapbiang and Jordana give us the lowdown.

SOAS JCR student
Working hard in the JCR

What do you wish you’d known when you started at SOAS?

‘I wish I’d made more use of the different venues nearby which I didn’t know about until much later, like the British Museum, the markets, theatres, libraries. There are also so many different places where you can get student discounts, like Topshop, on your Oyster card, National Rail and more. SOAS’s Career Service is also great – as well as the learning and development team – especially for international students who may not be very familiar with the British education system.’ (Aapurv)

‘Take advantage of the resources in the library– it is one of the most prestigious libraries for African, Asian and the Middle East! They have everything and more.’ (Lulu)

‘I wish I had known about the SOAS Ventures Society –perhaps the events and guidance could have helped me with my entrepreneurial interests.’ (Badapbiang)

‘I wish I’d known how expansive and valuable my time was going to be at SOAS. I really enjoyed immersing myself in extra curricular activities and continuing to have what were at the time, some of the most mind-bending conversations as my world view shifted around me — I definitely could have used a heads up that my entire perspective on the world was about to change! I wish I’d also known how valuable the library is and just how many resources were available to students.’ (Jordana)

SOAS library
SOAS Library

What do you remember about Welcome Week/your first month or so at university?

‘Meeting people from all over the world as the most exciting part for me! It was my first time outside India! And then of course the beauty of London :)’ (Aapurv)

‘The sheer number and diversity of societies was amazing! It really reflects how unique SOAS is, there were a lot societies that other universities didn’t have! My first month flew by because I found great friends who also lived at Dinwiddy House.’ (Lulu)

‘The one thing that I remember so vividly during Welcome Week is the “Platonic Speed Dating” event, making friends and breaking the ice was so much easier because of it. The people I met (both PG and UG students) at the various events during Freshers Fortnight continue to be my friends even after leaving SOAS.’ (Badapbiang)

‘I remember Welcome Week vividly; I met my first friend at SOAS, Iyata, at the introductory lecture for our course and we explored the campus together. I remember attending a talk in the JCR about fair wages for staff members and to be inclusive — everyone used sign language for applause, which is common practice in lots of activist spaces, and I felt really proud to be entering a student body that prioritised inclusion so much. Most of all I remember everything looked and felt brilliantly alive and everything, everyone was so colourful — there was activity everywhere. I also remember the first official SOAS party I attended which confirmed I was in the right place.  The exodus from the student bar accompanied by the samba band on a mild October night has to be among my favourite memories of my first month at SOAS.  Importantly, Welcome Week for me felt almost like coming home, that I was in the right place with people who finally shared my views and where I could finally be accepted as myself. I came from a very conservative school where my identity was never accepted and I often felt alone in my political beliefs which was rather isolating. Welcome Week was an unbelievably welcoming and exciting experience and one I hope I shall never forget.’ (Jordana)

SOAS Students around the campus.

What advice do you have for new students starting at SOAS this September?

‘Be careful with the virus but don’t let it stop you from going out (with reasonable precautions). It is very easy to isolate yourself in general, but also in these times. So do explore what London has to offer. And try and go outside London as well to places like Brighton, Bath, St.Ives, Cornwall, etc. If you can, try and travel around in Europe as well (when things are a bit more back to normal!) because it is much more expensive to do it once you go back home!’ (Aapurv)

‘Engage in whatever way you can- don’t be afraid to expose yourself to new things and new ideas. If you ever have any queries or are unsure about anything, ask your lecturers and tutors, they’re much friendlier than you think!’ (Lulu)

‘I would advise the next batch of students to get out of their comfort zone, talk to someone they find interesting and to not be afraid to be weird. Oh! and don’t forget to enrol with one of the language classes at SOAS, it is a good opportunity to learn a new language with ease.’ (Badapbiang)

‘My advice for students starting in September is to try and talk to as many people as you can. One of the many amazing aspects of SOAS is its incredible diversity across age, backgrounds and of course the world. You’ll find your own world can get a lot bigger by just talking to those around you. Not everyone will have the same perspective but the key is to remain open and lead with compassion. I’d also advise you to really make the most of their time with their professors and lecturers. SOAS really does have some incredible academics and has been paving the way in progressive politics for a while now, there’s loads you can learn outside of just your course structure and I’d encourage students to talk to staff and students on other courses to round out their knowledge of their own field. Lastly, I found my first few months at SOAS exhilarating but exhausting; prioritise your physical, spiritual and mental health, don’t push yourself for the sake of it, take time to rest I promise you won’t miss out.’ (Jordana)

With thanks to Aapurv Jain, Lulu Hamed S Alsugair, Badapbiang Tariang Dkhar and Jordana Belaiche for their input.

Take a look at the events happening at the SOAS SU.

Disclaimer: these students experienced Welcome Week in 2019 or before, without the Covid restrictions. We advise all new students to follow the guidelines and stay safe – whilst also making the most of the start of term!

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