I know that it can be scary moving to a different place, country or even continent, and can sometimes experience slight culture shock. I really realised I don’t know anything about the UK and what people do on a day to day basis when I came to study here in 2016-2017. My home is on an island in Greece, so as you can imagine, our ideas for socialising, activities and hobbies and small talk are quite different (did someone say “nice weather today”?). There were a few things that took me a while to get accustomed to, and with some traditions I now have a special bond with (Nando’s ehm ehm). In both cases though, learning about a different culture and comparing university life between two countries was very interesting, and I found way more differences than expected. Hopefully this list will give you some insight on what to expect before going to Uni in England.
Here are 10 British University Traditions that accurately represent University Life in the UK, or at least at Surrey.
1. Fresher’s Week
Expecting to start to university with an introductory lecture and the awkward feeling of trying to meet the people you’re sitting next to. Well, that’s not how British Unis work. In the UK there is a thing called Fresher’s Week: A week full of parties, exploring your interests and hobbies, getting out of your comfort zone and mingling. This week is very special for British Universities, as you get a great start to your new “Uni life”. Everyday there is a different event or party, either with famous DJ’s or artists, or with fun and quirky themed events. Regardless, it’s the perfect opportunity to meet a lot of students, and have a great time. There is also Fresher’s Fair, an event where you get to see the unlimited amount of clubs and societies that exist in Surrey and sign up to almost everything and enjoy a day full of attempting to do sports (and often failing… or is that just me?).2.
2. Sports and Societies
Speaking of sports and societies, one of my biggest impressions of coming to study in the UK was the unlimited amount of societies to choose from. Whether you’re a dance fanatic, an amateur chess player or just a big Harry Potter fan, you will definitely find something you can engage in, meet people with common interests and enjoy a year full of activities, competitions and socials. Joining the Volleyball and Ballroom & Latin Clubs were the best choices I have made to university so far. And if you think you won’t have time to join anything, every Wednesday afternoon is dedicated to being active and playing sports or doing other activities. Just go for it!
3. Pre drinks
This is another big tradition in the UK which a lot of countries have never considered doing. As you can imagine, it is basically a gathering for people who want to go out and not spend a lot of money on alcohol (otherwise called students) and start the party early in the night, with drinks, beer pong and card games. And if you’re not a drinker like me, you can still have a lot of fun playing games and dancing in a house way too small to fit everyone in.
You’ve probably heard of Nando’s, an English favourite. And if you haven’t, you will get to know it pretty well, like I did. It’s a restaurant that offers a variety of chicken dishes with decent prices, and often does offers and competitions you can enter. Tip: Buy their Peri-Peri sauce in store, perfect for cooking chicken or having with pizza at home
5. The Surrey Stag
This tradition is carried out only in Surrey (unless we have some Surrey fans somewhere in the world). We really love our stag logo, so much that it is imprinted onto basically everything, t-shirts, bags, mugs and of course, Steve the Stag teddy bear, or in my case “Estaggi the Stag”.
However, you cannot be an official University of Surrey student without a picture with the stag statue on campus, and if you don’t know what I’m talking about just google the university and you’ll see plenty of pictures. This is serious business.
6. Nights out & Themed Parties
Before I came to Uni, I was always looking forward to the weekend, Saturday in particular, cause everyone would be out partying, as there is usually no school or work the next day. Well.. in the UK people don’t think about the consequences of the next day, or at least that’s how I interpret it. There are always parties on campus on Wednesdays and Fridays, instead of Saturdays, (or during exams), so there are plenty of opportunities to get out there and enjoy Uni nightlife.
And regarding those parties, you will notice that British people love their themed parties and will find any excuse to dress up. From the famous foam parties (or paint vs foam – even more exciting), to silent disco or Bollywood or Greek nights. This is a fun way of exploring different cultures, dances and music. I don’t know about your country, but in Greece we don’t really have much variety. We mainly have Greek nights, so… just nights.
This one is not exactly a tradition, but people love complaining about the weather here. Whether it is raining heavily or it’s so sunny that everyone looks like a lobster. Yes, I have burnt in the UK too… I mean, the UK is not particularly known for great weather and sun, but it’s not as bad as everyone makes it seem. There are plenty of sunny days, and you will find yourself lying on the grass by the lake sunbathing and revising before you know it. Sounds pretty good, right?
8. Fancy Balls and Dinners
This is basically another excuse to dress up, just this time a bit more formal. There are many opportunities to dress smart and enjoy a meal with your course mates, your sports team or just friends. I mean, I have been to 5 already and it’s not the end of the year just yet.
9. Reading Week
Reading week is a blessing. It is a week you have between exams and Semester 2, so you can read up on your new modules, or just relax and not worry about assignments. Tip: Definitely recommend travelling if you can. You have plenty of time, and you can find surprisingly cheap flights from London to anywhere.
Apart from stating the obvious, that Uni students eat food, there are usually 3 scenarios: the periods when you want to be healthy and money efficient so you buy a lot of fruit and veg, the days when you and your flat will pitch in and have a Sunday Roast (very English, I know), and the scenario where you are out of money and have been eating pasta for a week straight. But don’t worry, you have to go through this to be able to call yourself a student, we’ve all been there.