When deciding whether to move away from home for university, the answer for me was simple: no. I am lucky enough to have Roehampton 20-30 minutes away by bus, the University itself is extremely close to the centre of London, one of my favourite cities, and I am happy living at home as I have a loving and flexible relationship with my parents. Granted not everyone has this, the decision for me personally was easy, but regardless of your reasons for staying at home, many off-campus students share the same worry: how will I fit in? How will I make friends? How can I engage with the university and its on-campus activities?
Despite my worries, the transition into university life couldn’t have been any better for me. Roehampton is a caring, accepting and loving community that embraces people of all identities and does their best to make everyone feel comfortable socially and educationally. This was one of the main reasons I picked Roehampton as my university destination: these qualities were so clear to me the minute I stepped in for the first time at my open day.
Join the Facebook groups
When talking to my friends in sixth form, they were all talking about Facebook groups hosted by their universities in which future students could start to talk and get to know each other a bit more. I didn’t have Facebook at the time, but I thought that it was worth a look to see if I could get an idea of who would be around me when I first walk in and maybe find some people on my course.
So, my first tip to getting engaged before you even step foot on your first day is to join the University of Roehampton’s closed group for new students.
I joined the ‘Official University of Roehampton Freshers 2018-19’ and found the most helpful posts to be a Course Mate Finder thread and a link to a WhatsApp group for off-campus students. Other posts included notices from the Students’ Union, Growhampton (the University’s green project), messages about societies and of course, the Freshers’ Week events. I joined these groups almost immediately, which ended up being very useful on my first day as I met with people on my course before going into my first Welcome Week talk, and those on the off-campus group chat during our breaks/when exploring the University. A couple of those people have now come to be some of my closest friends 7 months later.
Attend Welcome Week
My second tip is to attend the Welcome Week talks and events! If I hadn’t gone to these talks, I would have not only found myself not at home with the University, due to not understanding what was available to me (from course support to daily living support), but I wouldn’t have made friends immediately. As I mentioned before, I met people at the talks and spent the day with them, meaning I had people to go to the Freshers’ events with who knew other people too, so we could all socialise and enjoy Freshers’ Week to the fullest. The talks will also help you to understand what’s available to you and the structure of university itself: the layout of the courses, the grading system, the support given and university life in general is very different to secondary school/college, so it’s very worthwhile to go to the talks and get to grips with the new system.
Join a society
My third tip is to join a society. Roehampton has so many diverse societies available, which you will learn more about at the Freshers’ Fair in Week 1, where all the societies will have stands and sign-up sheets if you want to join. Just for a few examples, societies include the photography society, the LGBTQ+ society, RoePaul’s Drag society, the Disney society, the Roe Hogwarts society, the Refugee Action Society and a separate Sports and Active Community group including football, rugby, netball, badminton, volleyball and more. On Freshers’ Week, I joined the First Aid society, the Social Media Team and the Roehampton Dance Society. I wasn’t experienced in any but I thought it would be fun to try them out and I learned something interesting in all groups.
Follow the uni on social media
My final tip is to follow Roehampton on any social media. The closed groups are good for meeting new people, but following the university on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook makes you aware of upcoming events and important information, which is especially useful when you’re off-campus and are not constantly surrounded by the information you need. Events include upcoming sports matches, new courses available, guests attending the university and updates to the university itself such as library opening times, new murals and building information. The university also has a new Instagram page (@roetakeovers) launching next semester, which will have takeovers by students. Through these, you can learn about university life by asking them questions and them taking you through their normal day. Often, students will take you through different societies or life as a study abroad student, a valuable opportunity you can get in your second year.
Roehampton is a very welcoming place: as a new student, it wasn’t hard to find new people and engage in different activities. I realise now that my little nerves going in to it weren’t even worth it and that, in the long run, being off-campus and going to Roehampton was one of the best decisions I ever made.