By Kirsty Capes
When I realised that I would be going to Brunel, I was massively disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE Brunel now, but as a college student I screwed up my AS Levels and as a result got rejected from my top two choices. My utter ambivalence towards University meant that I didn’t bother checking the campus out beforehand, buying tickets to any fresher events, or even looking at my modules. Living in South London meant that I had made the decision to commute to uni and save money rather than move into halls. In the summer before my first year, I resented the fact that I was going to Brunel, because I thought that I wouldn’t get the “uni experience” that my older on-campus friends had told me about.
During Freshers’ Week, the off campus contacts were fantastic and worked really hard to integrate us off campus lot into the fresher festivities. There were complimentary services like a night bus and some of them even offered to let us crash in their houses if our own homes were too far away after a night out. Feeling uncomfortable and slightly isolated, I didn’t bother with the nightlife events and only went to a couple of the daytime Freshers events. My Freshers’ Week pretty much set the tone for the whole of my first year at Brunel.
Then, in second year, I became involved in Brunel Drama Society. I was encouraged to come along after someone on my course told me that they were looking for scripts to perform. As a writer this seemed like too good an opportunity to pass up and I came along to my first workshop. There, I realised that a number of people from my course were regular members. I’d never bothered to talk to these people before because I’d always just turned up to lectures and gone straight home. My first ever visit to Drama Soc was probably the first time I’d socialised with people at uni properly since my Freshers’ Week. I was such a loner!
The people at Drama Soc, especially the committee members, made me feel extremely welcome and I slotted right into the group. I began going out for a drink with the other Drama Soc members after a session. Then, I managed to get a job at Loco’s and Academy as a bar staff member. This, alongside Drama Soc opened me up to a whole new group of people who I’d never bothered socialising with before because I was so nervous about approaching people. What I didn’t realise is that uni is ALL ABOUT approaching new people and putting yourself out there. Everyone’s in the same boat, after all. Working in Loco’s helped me become more confident and through Drama Soc I made some friends for life. Throughout my second year, I became more involved in the Union of Brunel Students, joining Poetry Soc and having a go at kayaking. I discovered a serious passion for some of the issues students were facing and this led me to run for Editor of Le Nurb at the beginning of my third year. Everything I enjoy about uni I owe to the Union of Brunel Students, who work hard to support societies and clubs, and without whom there wouldn’t be a Le Nurb or Student Media.
I sincerely regret that I wasted a whole year of uni being isolated and refusing to get out of my comfort zone and socialise with new people. My second and third year were fantastic because I took advantage of the vast range of student activities on offer and dabbled in student politics, which led me to my favourite thing at Brunel, Le Nurb. Taking part in these “extra curriculars” meant that I had a reason to stay on campus after my lecture or seminar finished, and as a consequence I ended up becoming much more integrated into the Brunel community. I enjoyed it so much that I even decided to stay on and do a Master’s degree, which means you’re all stuck with me for another year!
If I could give one piece of advice to off campus Freshers, it would be to not make the same mistakes I did. I know it can be hard when everyone forms groups with their flatmates, something which you can’t be a part of. But no matter how uncomfortable or unnatural it feels it is important to put yourself out there and try as many new things as possible. I was terrified turning up to my first Drama Soc session all on my lonesome, but then I realised that people are nice! They’re not going to shun you or make you feel uncomfortable – more likely they’ll go out of their way to make you feel at home. Don’t be worried about turning up to a society or club on your own, because you’re probably going to be leaving at the end of the night with new friends.
I’ve also noticed that there are some unexpected perks about living at home during uni. I can honestly say that living at home has had a direct effect on how good my grades have been. If I had moved out, there’s no way I would have managed a first in my undergraduate degree. Also, after seeing some of my friends’ student houses, I’ve become extremely grateful of some of the little things my parents do. Like how there is always loo roll and hand soap in the toilet, and if I want dinner I can ask my mum to leave it in the microwave for when I get home. And there isn’t black mould growing anywhere in my bedroom. And how I’m not paying £400 a month in rent. To be honest, with the right attitude, living off campus actually gives you the best of both worlds.