This is going to be a freshers’ season unlike any other. With all the changes and uncertainty of the current situation, this year is set to look different for everyone. Along with new students, we’re all getting used to a fresh rhythm of uni life.
The first few weeks will be crucial for CUs. First, in recruiting new students to join the CU, strengthening the team of returning students committed to living and speaking for Jesus. Second, in serving the many students arriving with big, unanswered questions and who could embark upon a journey to faith through the friendships with Christians they meet early on at uni.
For more help with welcoming new students, watch our "Running Freshers Welcome" track from Forum 2020.
A lot of what we want to do will have shifted online, but we also want to make the most of the face-to-face contact we have with new students.
This year, we have a chance to serve our SUs and unis too, through demonstrating support and help for new students alongside our gospel witness as they arrive.
We’ve got two big aims for the early part of the first term:
Use the sections and links below to help you think through the different style of freshers’ season this year with all its opportunities and challenges. There’ll be a lot of ‘normal CU life’ that is worth continuing. You’ll come across new ideas and questions too. Explore what you find here, then get chatting together about the possibilities. Include your Staff Worker who will be able to introduce you to good ideas they’ve seen elsewhere.
Each year around 580,000 students begin undergraduate studies at UK universities. Around 80% move to a new city to embark on their studies and some will move from overseas too.
Moving to uni breaks old routines and prompts new students to re-consider what they truly value.
Because everyone is in the same situation, the early weeks of term are an intense time of friendship-building.
We don’t know quite what this year. Numbers on campus may be a little smaller, more distanced than before and arriving over longer periods. That’s even more reason to help these new students transition, think about Jesus and find friends who will last.
Most new students will establish more long-lasting friendships during this short period than at any other times in their lives. While more interaction will be online this year, finding friends will still be a top priority for our new students. Within a friendship is where lots of people think through life’s big questions.
Moving to uni breaks old routines and prompts new students to re-consider what they truly value. CUs can be vital in friendship and encouragement for Christians starting uni and are often a steppingstone towards deep, faith-filled friendship and good church connections.
CUs have been involved in welcoming students for many years. Of course, we can do it again this year and it may be more needed than ever.
There have been three significant changes in recent years to think through:
This means that new students don’t have to wait for their arrival to start meeting new people and exploring a city. By the time your CU starts, many will have already connected with you in some way through UCCF, Forum or your own social media channels and online events.
It may not be the same as normal years but there’s still a lot to do in starting uni and plenty of people to meet in or online. The first week of term is especially packed with activity. The staggered arrival at many unis will also make the 2020 new student experience even more distanced while still busy.
This is the biggest change of all. The pressures of the going-to-uni experience on students’ mental health are well-documented.
Together, these changes encourage us that welcoming students is as important as ever – but that we should see our welcome as stretching from results day to mid-autumn term.
Most new students start to think like new students from A-Level (or Scottish Higher) results days. Planning starts in earnest for the move to uni life.
The CU’s job: offering a big online welcome as new students start to make the transition to a new course and perhaps a new city. Showing that there is community in the CU and that everyone is welcome.
Soon-to-be students do the jobs that need doing before starting: buying pots and bedding if they’re moving and finding all they can about their new life online.
The CU’s job: being a welcoming and informative presence online to Christians and non-believers alike and helping to run Explore and Impact Groups which will graft new students, and their questions, in before lectures kick off.
After what’s felt like a long build up, students will join uni and most will move from home. The first few weeks will be blur of activity stretched between online meetings and in-person tasks. Christians focusing on making friends and welcoming international students in this time will be invaluable in the months and years to come.
The CU’s job: making it as easy as possible for new students to form friendships with Christians that will last beyond freshers' week. Showing that CU is a great context to ask honest spiritual questions.
Finding a church will be high on the agenda of some new students. Others will be open to reconnecting or attending for the first time. For many, physical access to services will still be limited. The support that churches offer as students adjust to life in a new city will make a real difference.
The CU’s job: aiming to help all those who’d like to find a church to connect with one, making the process as relational as possible through physical meetings and creative online strategy.
New students keep settling in. Most feel increasingly at home, though many get ‘delayed homesickness’ around half-way through term. Non-believers have more headspace to think about spiritual things.
The CU’s job: looking out for freshers as they continue to adjust; actively inviting new unbelieving friends to engage with the gospel.
As the term rolls on, most new students begin to feel like old hands. Christian students feel increasingly settled.
The CU’s job: helping Christian students get integrated into CU life and to make the most of opportunities as a first year; offering non-believing students regular opportunities to find out about Jesus and Christian students to encouragement to have ago at sharing.
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