What a joy it is to have everyone back! If the rest of the year is anything like the welcome our new students received, we cannot wait. Needless to say we had hoped Freshers’ Week would be under different circumstances, but thanks to the flexibility, adaptability and resilience of the team, we managed to give students the best possible welcome we could.
Usually Arrivals is a time of community-building. There are captains roaming the campus helping welcome new faces, student groups out on parade showcasing what they do best, and of course a huge party atmosphere radiates campus. For obvious reasons, that couldn’t happen this year and we had to completely start from scratch, trying to plan for a Freshers’ Week with no idea what the regulations would be at the time.
It goes without saying, but the safety of all the staff, volunteers and students was our top priority throughout the planning process. However this Freshers’ Week has been about far more than compliance with regulations: it’s been about taking what could have been a pretty crap start to University life and ensuring that our new students come in with a sense of hope for the year ahead and making sure they find their home away from home.
Live From The Bath
From the get-go, it was important that there were opportunities for everyone to interact in a covid-secure way. Students were arriving from all corners of the country, and indeed from across the world, some of whom were self-isolating or shielding. For them, it was going to be essential to have a strong roster of virtual events to make sure they weren’t missing out on the fun. This is where ‘Live from the Bath’ was born; a completely virtual talk show jam packed with games, activities, headliners and special guests. The work involved in putting this together was immense, and we couldn’t have done it without the support from Student Media, Backstage and Alumni.
Alongside the University, we wanted to make sure that we could provide enough spaces for everyone to meet up safely without putting the wider community of Bath at risk. What first started off as a couple of marquees outside of the Chancellors’ Building soon enough turned into an entire pop-up Freshers’ Village – four different venues, each offering something unique. We obviously had the little set back of a 22:00 curfew but seeing photos of everyone coming together regardless and enjoying the spaces that have been provided has been really heart-warming. We’re so glad that the East Village venue will continue to operate on Fridays and Saturdays.
Inflatables, games consoles, pub games; you name it we had it. A whole arena full of games to break the ice with new flat mates. This brainwave from our FWEMs was completely covid secure, with mandatory facemasks, hand sanitiser, frequent cleaning and a very aesthetically pleasing one-way system. Hearing the buzz you had about the activities arena was phenomenal, and seeing it be one of the most popular events this Freshers’ Week was incredible.
This Freshers’ Week has forced us to think outside of the box and come up with completely different ways to engage with students. Yes, the thought of not being able to host our arena nights was daunting at first but once our creative juices got flowing, the possibilities of what we could do within the guidelines was outstanding. It’s been a learning curve for us all as we’ve had to adjust to ever-changing ways of working but it’s meant that moving forward, we have a really good idea of what works whilst this pandemic is still part of our everyday lives.
Things aren’t going to be easy, and it’s going to take a lot of adjusting as we figure out how to make the ‘new normal’ work in a University setting. But seeing how well our students adapted during Freshers’ Week and the way that everyone respected boundaries put in place within the venues has been so positive and frankly, we’re so excited to see how this can be continued throughout the year. The past week has shown us that it’s still possible to have a good time whilst sticking to the rules. We have a mutual responsibility to ourselves, our families and friends, and the wider community to ensure that Bath remains a safe place for everyone to live and we must continue to make sure we’re being conscientious.
A huge thank you needs to go out for the FWEMs – Meg, Ed and Glen. You certainly weren’t expecting to be planning a Freshers’ Week quite like it, and it’s something to add to the CV. You should all be so proud of what you’ve managed to pull off, we’re certainly proud of you. To our captains, thank you for sticking with us. To put it simply, without our volunteers Freshers’ Week can’t happen and despite the uncertainty, we thank you all for having faith in the measures in place and for welcoming our students so well. And finally to our students, who from the get go have been enriching our community more than we could have expected in the given climate. We can’t wait to see what you all have in store as you move through University.
Big love to you all x