To all the new freshers joining SOAS this year, welcome! I’m sure it’s a relief to everyone that on-campus activities will be getting underway this September and there’s plenty to be looking forward to. At the same time, freshers week can be overwhelming and there’s a lot to get used to, so here is a list of some of the things you might like to focus on at the start of term:
1. Get your bearings
If you’re moving away from home, the first thing to do after you move in is to get your bearings of the area. The main priorities are your local big supermarket, doctors, pharmacy, and the quickest/cheapest/most convenient way to get to SOAS. If you’re able to walk to uni, try to find a route which is a bit more picturesque with some greenery (and preferably some dogs in the morning!) as it will do wonders for your mental health and is a much nicer way to set up your day. As for SOAS, we’re in such a lovely part of the city and there are plenty of things to do and see nearby! Bloomsbury has countless cafes, delis and green spots to discover so it’s definitely worth a wander. Chinatown is a relatively short walk away and the area around Kings Cross is great for hanging out with friends.
Make sure you get all your enrolment stuff in order during freshers. You’ll need your student card for entering buildings after freshers so it’s really important that the uni has all the documents it needs from you. You can find all the info you need regarding enrolment here.
3. Library induction
To guarantee you’ll be able to find your way around the library from the get-go, book a library induction! They will let you know how to borrow books, how to return them, how to navigate all of the thousands of books and so much more. Trust me when I say everyone who didn’t do an induction at freshers (me included) wishes they had at some point or another!
4. The Student Union, Societies and the Freshers Fayre
The Freshers Fayre on the 1st October is the perfect opportunity to meet different societies, learn what they’re about, and easily sign up for the ones you’re interested in. It also shows just a little bit of what the student union does at SOAS, and it’s definitely a good idea to check out their website . You can also find the full list of societies on the website, so if you’re interested in ones that don’t have a stall at the fayre or you’re not able to attend, that’s the place to go.
It’s so important to sign up for your local GP just in case something happens whilst you’re at uni. Don’t leave it until you need it, as getting your registration processed can take a couple of weeks. If you haven’t yet had your COVID vaccination, there are walk-in centres all over London where you can get your jab without an NHS number. Find your local centre here. Particularly if you won’t be going home during the year, remember to sign up at the dentist too.
Not totally necessary, but it’s very tempting to blow all your student loan payment straight away, or splash out on something extravagant when there’s an amount of money you’re not used to in your account! Take a week to track exactly how much you absolutely need to spend (such as groceries, travel, bills etc) and use that as the basis for your budget. Even if you choose not to budget, it’s good to keep track of your money so you don’t get caught out.
7. Preparing for lectures
You’ll thank yourself for looking at your course pages and figuring out when your assignments are due throughout the year during freshers. Print them out or write them on a big calendar in your room if you can, and if you’re feeling really keen then you can get ahead on some of your readings. Most lecturers won’t require you to do anything for the first week though, so don’t stress too much
8. Remember to have fun!
Freshers week is the time to meet new people, settle into the city, and most of all have a good time. Going to freshers events and joining societies will give you the perfect head-start to the year, and becoming close with your flatmates will make the year so much easier! Don’t panic if you don’t instantly meet your best friend – a lot of us only solidify our friendship groups at the end of the year, or in second year or even beyond. It’s always possible to meet new people through societies and classes at any point during your time at SOAS, so don’t feel pressured to have everything sorted straight away.
And finally, remember that if things get a bit too much and you’re struggling to settle into student life, the SOAS Student Wellbeing team is there for support and guidance. Academic advisors, tutors, and lecturers are generally more than happy to help you throughout the year too, so don’t be afraid to reach out. Enjoy being part of the SOAS community – it’s a great one!
Ella Neve Wilton is a SOAS Junior Digital Ambassador, currently studying BA International Relations and Korean.