Fresher's Week | Autism Toolkit
Additional support and disability advice
Freshers’ week is packed with both academic and social activities. During this week you will be given a lot of information about your course and you will probably meet quite a few new people. This can be both exciting and overwhelming at the same time.
To help you navigate the week, the University provide student Welcome Ambassadors. You can find out more about the Welcome Ambassadors before you arrive by joining the University's Facebook group for new students. The Welcome Ambassadors will set up Facebook groups for new students to meet others with similar interests. They will also run social media campaigns and events during the first few weeks of term. Check #UoPWelcome for updates.
Also, you may have a Specialist Mentor (Awarded through DSA) that can help you with organising your timetable and finding your way.
An important part of Freshers’ week is Freshers’ Fayre which normally runs during the first week of you arriving to the University. It is filled with events and activities designed to make your first days at university great, with opportunities to meet new people, make friends and settle in. It gives new (and current) students the chance to discover all of the societies, clubs and volunteering opportunities at University of Portsmouth, as well as a chance to find out about the best student deals your university and local organisations have to offer.
How could this affect me?
Most new students love their first few weeks at University and see these weeks as the time they made most of their friends, especially through attending Freshers’ Fayre and joining interest groups. This is what some students have said:
- “After initial shallow talk-to-everyone-in-Freshers-week, neighbours in halls and shared interests (joined games, film clubs), further friends-of-friends became my friends too. Longest lasting (30 years now) uni friendships came from shared interests/hobbies”
- “I joined clubs, then got invited to hang out because I was such an interesting weirdo (that’s what I was told anyway)”
The reality of the first few weeks is that it is certainly one of the most exciting times at university, but the amount of information given and the meeting so many new people can feel a bit too much. For instance, during this first week you are given the timetable for the first couple of weeks and the rest of the year, teaching venues, information about group and tutor allocations, reading materials, course deadlines etc. Considering all this information all at once may be challenging.
By contacting ASDAC before you start you can find out about support available to help you get the most out of the first few weeks. You can sign up to a Transition Day, to get some of the information ahead of time and practise strategies for managing the transition. Also, your tutor at ASDAC can help you with organising your timetable and finding your way.
You can also find out about how to sign up for the 'Living Well at Uni with Autism' course - this is a weekly, informal session focusing on a variety of useful skills to help manage the transition. This is also a good place to meet other autistic students and share tips.
The aspect that some students find most challenging is making friends which may lead them to feel isolated. To find out tips on how to make friends, you can read our article on meeting people at University.
I expected to be able to easily get involved in societies and found myself hiding in my room out of fear of meeting new people. From the moment I got here I wanted to be in the Labour Club. I turned up to one meeting, and despite meeting very friendly and chatty people, I spent the entire time judging myself, wondering if I was doing it right, questioning whether I was convincing people I was ‘normal.'
What to do next?Think about whether you would like to physically visit Fresher's Fayre or you would prefer to sign up online.
- View the Social Groups information online beforehand so you know which stalls you be interested in visiting.
- Be careful when joining societies and clubs. Each one will charge you a joining fee and if you decide you do not like the group, you will not get your money back.
- Look out for any social groups that offer free trials, so you can get a feel for what it would be like taking part in a social club.
- It is tempting to join many societies, but sometimes your chosen social group(s) may interfere with your studies as they can take up a lot of time.
- You can join at any point during the year, so do not feel you need to make a rushed decision or join them all at once.
- Once you have picked one that you really like, join it and then see how you feel being part of that group. Remember it is a social group, this means you will be making friends, interacting socially and definitely going out with your group on a regular basis.
- If you have already made a friend or you know someone at the University, take them with you. It always helps to have another person’s perspective.
- Take a notepad so you can write down anything you will need to remember and a bag for all the flyers you will get.
Questions to think about
Before going to Freshers’ Fayre you may want to consider the following:
What are the peak times of the Fayre? - The Freshers’ Fayre can get very busy. If you find this overwhelming it would be worth considering a visit at a time where there may not be so many students, like the beginning or end of the day.
Think about whether you would like to physically visit the stalls or you would prefer to sign up online. You can do so here here.
Additional information and links
You may want to consider joining the National Union of Students (NUS). NUS is a voluntary membership organisation which makes a real difference to the lives of students and its member students' unions. They also promote a NUS Totum card. The Totum card is a student discount card that brings you over 200 UK student discounts.
You may want to read
This toolkit is an adaptation of the Autism&Uni project led by Marc Fabri from Leeds Beckett University, under license CC BY 4.0. The original Autism&Uni project was funded with support from the European Commission with partners in the UK, Finland, the Netherlands, Poland and Spain. For more information about this project please visit the Autism&Uni website.