Do all university semesters start the same way and have the same events? Are the same terms used around the world for the first week of university? Although each country will share similarities when it comes to the beginning of university, they will have their own unique way of introducing new students to the institution.
In the UK, the first couple of weeks of university are referred to as “freshers week” or “welcome week”. This is because the first-year students are fresh to the university. It’s a great time to make new friends, get started on your classes, join clubs and societies and find your way around your campus and local area.
Most universities start freshers week around the end of September when the students arrive for the new academic year. Some universities may have two weeks of “freshers” and so may start a little earlier in the middle of September.
Throughout the week (or two) your university will offer activities, meet and greets, and other events to allow students to socialise and get to know their university. This is also the time when students can sign up to the local health centre, register for their library card and apply for their student cards.
Halls of residence will host events to help you settle into your living space and meet other students living in the building.
The local off-campus restaurants, pubs and nightclubs often offer discounts, deals and themed nights to help students settle into the area.
Universities in the US often refer to the first week of the academic year as “orientation week”. This is because students will be learning the campus layout, will take introductory classes and begin to experience life as a university student.
Many first-year students choose to live in residential halls on or near campus, so the university assigns a few days to settle in and for students to meet each other. Then orientation begins. The dates of orientation depend on your chosen university with some taking place as early as June.
During orientation week in the US, not only can students begin to familiarise themselves with their university, but they can also sign up for introductory classes. You can speak to lecturers and plan what you would like to study during your first year. Some classes fill up fast so it’s always best to try and choose your classes as soon as you can.
There will also be a range of meet-ups and events organised so students can learn more about student life and learn more about American student societies such as fraternities and sororities.
And while you enjoy what university has to offer, your parents, families and supporters have the option of attending some programmes too.
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Orientation week or “frosh” is how universities in Canada describe the first week of the academic year. The aim is to welcome all students and help them prepare for their first year at university. Just like the UK, some universities range on start dates for frosh.
The unusual thing about frosh is that it is often split by faculty and can sometimes encourage some friendly rivalry to see which department organises the best first week for new students. Throughout the week students have the chance to attend parties, pub crawls and sporting events, as well as mental-health support workshops, introductory lectures and ice-breaking games.
Students have the choice to opt out of their faculty frosh if they don’t want to attend. But it’s a good idea to still make it to the university-wide orientation events.
One aspect of frosh that students often love is that it is organised by older students who can answer questions from their experience of being at the university. Not only can they help students explore the local area, they can also help students set up bank accounts, register for the campus health centre and provide support with settling in.
Australian universities refer to week one of the year as “O’Week”, meaning orientation week. Just like other countries around the world, this is the time for students to learn about their university.
The universities often kick off the events with “welcome Saturday” when all students can arrive on campus and move into their accommodation. The difference between O’Week in Australia compared to other countries’ orientation is that often students will also be shown local beaches, the nearby city or even famous landmarks.
One event is a race around the city where you may have to find certain landmarks or collect clues in teams. This is not only great for getting to know your local area but it’s a fun way to make friends.
Throughout O’week, the organisers will put you into small groups as you complete team challenges, attend workshops, try a new place for dinner or dress up for a fancy-dress party. And if you begin to feel homesick, there are many older students and well-being coordinators who will be there to help you feel comfortable.
Older students will join in throughout the week if you have any questions.
Helpful tips for the first few weeks of university
Wherever you choose to attend university, here are some tips to make sure you enjoy the first few weeks:
- Get involved with clubs and events that interest you
- Join a sporting event or team day to see if you want to become a permanent member
- Don’t just pick what your friends are doing, choose for yourself
- Budget a little extra spending money for the first few weeks for events and parties
- Don’t push yourself too hard, remember to stay hydrated, sleep and eat well
- Make use of the daytime to look around and familiarise yourself with the university layout
- Bring sharing snacks on moving-in day to connect with your flatmates
- Remember everyone is having the same experience so it’s ok to be nervous
- Be yourself!
- Don’t feel pressured to drink alcohol
- Attend the student union fair to see what they have to offer
- Bring some fancy-dress items – you never know what events will happen
- Accept the free gifts – you can never have too many pens
- Take part in the buddy programme if your university offers one, you can learn a lot from an older student who has experienced exactly what you are going through
“Freshers week” in the UK, “Orientation” in the US, “O’week” in Australia and “Frosh week” in Canada. There are many ways to describe the first week of university, but what happens in each country?