Wales is famous for its warm welcome – and when you’re starting at university, it begins long before you arrive on campus.
Before the start of term
You’ll be sent all the information you need about how enrolment works, how to find your accommodation, and what you need to bring. You may also get a personal message from someone already on your course: lots of departments run ‘parenting’, ‘mentoring’ or ‘buddy’ schemes, matching each newcomer to a returning student who will be happy to answer any questions.
You can join freshers’ groups on Facebook and other social media platforms, getting to know other first-years, and there’ll be a wealth of information online about what you can expect in your first days and weeks. It all ensures that when term starts, you’ll hit the ground running.
If you’re travelling from overseas, many Welsh universities provide a ‘meet and greet’ service at airports including Heathrow, Birmingham, Cardiff and Bristol. They’ll collect you from the terminal and take you directly to your new accommodation, with the chance to meet other international students on the way. You’ll need to book the service in advance, and a small fee may be payable.
The first days
The best people to help you settle in to your new surroundings are the student volunteers who have gone through the same process themselves – perhaps only last year! They’ll be a visible presence on campus throughout the first weeks of term.
At Bangor University, for example, many current students work as Peer Guides. They’re recruited from across the whole institution, ensuring a good mix of age, gender and nationality. Likewise, the Students’ Union at Cardiff University enlists a small army of volunteers each autumn for its Welcome Team, including trained ‘Buddies’ who will have a one-to-one chat with every new student.
The first week of term is a whirl of activity. Alongside registration and academic induction, you’ll have a packed schedule of daytime and evening events.
It’s worth checking out the freshers’ fairs. Depending on the university, this may be a single event, or you may have a separate societies fair, sports clubs fair, volunteering fair and jobs and skills fair. You’ll have the chance to join clubs and societies, and sign up to try out new activities – everything from fencing or musical theatre to meditation or wine tasting.
Social events can include welcome receptions, quizzes, karaoke and club nights, both on and off campus. The programme will be carefully put together to appeal to all tastes, including plenty of activities for those who don’t drink alcohol.
All Welsh universities have special welcome programmes geared to international students. They’re a mix of practical help sessions and social events, providing a chance to meet new friends, learn about your surroundings and Welsh culture, and keep on top of practicalities such as registration with the National Health Service, visa rules and driving in the UK.