Oxford SU’s Freshers’ Fair is an exciting, hectic and perhaps somewhat overwhelming part of Freshers’ Week. It takes place over two days and each college has its own slot to have a look round, meaning everyone gets a shot at signing up for lots of cool opportunities and being very tempted by freebies.
But Freshers’ Fair isn’t just a huge part of the first week of term for first-year students. The second- and final-year student stallholders also get to take part in the hustle and bustle as they try to recruit new members to societies they head up or in which they’re involved. A year since my experience of Freshers’ Fair as a nervous fresher, I did it all over again from the other side of the stall. As President of Oxford First-Gen, a society for students who are among the first in their family to attend university, I worked alongside the rest of our committee to speak to new students about the work we do and how they can get involved.
Student stallholders have to go to Examination Schools, where we sit our exams and various other things like lectures and careers fairs take place, the Tuesday before Freshers’ Fair begins to set up their stall. Lots of societies have sleek roller banners and gave out free food and tote bags, but as a student-run Outreach society, we were content with some bunting, badges and A5 flyers. We set up our mailing list sign-up form and had our term card up with all the socials we had planned for first term, hoping that some first-gen students would take interest!
The next two days were very busy and tiring, particularly as we had to balance other Freshers’ Week commitments in our colleges, such as supervising pub crawls, movie nights and college-based parties, with being at the Fair. Despite this, we had such a great time chatting to new students about what we do and why. There was so much enthusiasm for Widening Participation and for creating spaces in which first-gen students can discuss their shared experiences, which felt really promising!
We packed up on the Thursday afternoon, feeling pretty tired, particularly at the prospect of a Freshers’ Week trip to night-club Bridge. However, we were equally relieved that it had been such a success. It’s certainly a different experience to being the first-year suddenly bombarded with so many new opportunities, but personally, it made me feel really nostalgic for the beginning of my first year. When you first arrive in Oxford, it’s a time of so much possibility, with the constant prospect of meeting new interesting people and trying out brand new things. While I’m really enjoying life now as a settled second-year, it reminded me of an exciting period in my university journey that I’d do all over again in a heartbeat!