This year has been a tough one and many new students will soon be descending onto campus full of both anxiety and excitement. As CUs, we want to be a welcoming presence to all students wherever they're at, and a great way to prepare for this is asking: 'As a new fresher, what would I most want in a new and unknown place?' I think the answer is probably: fun, friends and food!
Here are 10 top tips to help you welcome in freshers well this year.
New students are looking to have a good time when they first get to uni and to make friends. Put on social activities where you can get to know people and there are opportunities to make friends. Think about what you would be happy doing with strangers.
Hospitality is key and is a great way to help people feel at home. Lots of new students will be learning to navigate the kitchen and cook for the first time and will be longing for a good home cooked meal. Could you offer a grub crawl, a pizza night or just invite them out for tea and cake? This could be a great introduction to Meals with a Message type events or inviting them to our Meals with Jesus Impact Group series.
This isn’t about the best looking CU members, but making the CU known and seen! Think freshers' fair stands, decoration, social media presence and visually appealing first-contact.
What did you most need help with as a fresher? Could you help people move into their halls? Offer a lift to the nearest supermarket? Create social media posts with key landmarks in your city, or walk people to their first lectures?
A lot of universities have separate welcome or orientation weeks for international students. Make sure you’re around to offer helpful tips and support in moving and settling in and consider offering a good international welcome online for those still unable to travel.
You will come across lots of different kinds of people in welcome week, perhaps this year more than ever – new students, returning students, Christians, seekers, shaky Christians – be ready to welcome them all! Prepare for more returning students to be looking to try things for the first time and think about how you will appeal to all these people – not just keen new Christians!
Make sure when you meet new, interested students you make contact quickly. Be relational, take them out for coffee one to one, answer their questions and seek to develop lasting friendships. Think about setting up a buddy system in your CU for new students to easily get help, a friendly face and access to the CU.
Often we think for people to feel welcome we have to do everything for them but lots of students come ready to give, serve and get involved. Find out what they like doing and get them properly involved – people are much more likely to stay if they feel like they have something to contribute.
Freshers' weeks are busy, people miss the CU for whatever reason and before you know it, you’re halfway through the term. Plan follow-up events that allow people to continue getting to know one another and more opportunities to join in.
Offer a church search where local churches can come and share about themselves or offer to take people around different local churches. However you do it, be profiling your local churches and encouraging new students to get stuck in.
Find some more practical resources on how to welcome in new students well (including advice on freshers' weeks, freshers' fairs, etc.) here: www.uccf.org.uk/welcoming-new-students
This blog was written by Abi Andrews, a CU Staff Worker in Lancashire.
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