All Roads Lead Back to Freshers’ Fair
By Ramy Badrie
How It All Began
When I joined the University of Brighton as a first-year Law with Business student in 2018, I initially imagined myself leading a generally quiet life that was primarily centred on academic assignments. To be very specific, I envisioned most of my time would be spent in the library, attempting to work my way through the massive number of legal documents I had to read and analyse each week. I never thought, for even a second, that I would develop an active role in the wider community; nor did I think extracurricular activities would become such an integral part of my experience. The truth is, I was not quite sure how I would fit in as an international and mature student, and oddly enough, I sought comfort in the idea that I could spend most of my time studying. That all changed at Freshers’ Fair. To put it very simply, as I reflect on my first year and where I am at this particular stage, all roads for me lead back to that very place. It marked a very early turning point in my mindset pertaining to how I would utilize my time here and the path I would take. Our studies can become draining at times, which is why giving yourself a few hours a week to explore areas of interest outside of your course is essential to your wellbeing. Participating in societies, volunteering work and sports, among other opportunities, not only gives you room to breathe, but it helps you meet people from various disciplines. Make use of that. In many ways, we are lucky to attend a university made up of diverse backgrounds. The people you encounter will shine a light on issues you may have never been aware of and they will likely motivate you to step outside of your comfort zone. At Freshers’ Fair, I witnessed Societies and teams that celebrated different ideas, cultures and beliefs, all under the same roof.
At first, I was not planning to attend the Fair, mainly because I was still convincing myself I could spend the next three years in the library and partly because as a new student in Brighton, I was not completely sure how to actually get to the AMEX Stadium. Luckily, I had made friends with two people studying the same course as myself and after meeting up in town, we made our way there together. This brings me to my next point: when you are sitting in a room during Orientation and wondering whether you should make that initial contact with other course mates, do it. They are likely wondering the same thing, but our nerves can get the best of us. Besides lectures, Orientation is one of the few times you will be joined with all the people studying your course. Going back to Freshers’ Fair, almost immediately after arriving, I met the Debating Society and I eventually participated in their first session of the academic year. The Society quickly became one of the cornerstones of my time here and it gave me so much more to look forward to every week. I met people from different courses and walks of life, creating some fantastic memories along the way. Someone once told me you cannot make homes out of people, but I have found a home with them and for that I will always be grateful. Joining a Society will give you the confidence to venture outside of your comfort zone and have a more active role in the University’s wider community. The golden rule about them is this: there are over 100 Societies and sports teams, so keep trying them out until you find one or more that perfectly suit you. You do not need to feel as if you have to continue committing to one that you have lost interest in over time. As we find our voice here, our interests evolve and so does our outlook, so it is a natural progression.
The Value of Societies
What is special about Societies is that they can also motivate you to explore what made you decide to study your chosen career path. You see, I’m originally from Syria, which is currently experiencing one of the worst humanitarian crises in history. For the past few years, it has weighed heavily on me and I began campaigning for the rights of refugees. When I discovered the Amnesty Society and Law Society, I was ecstatic. I was excited to the point that I addressed an email to them, which I am fairly certain sounded like some sort of fan mail. I eventually joined both committees, meeting some of my now best friends who helped make my first year a special experience. We all have things that fuel us, and we all have untapped sources of passion. University is an ideal place to explore this because it affords you the opportunity to experiment until you find your calling. There are countless Societies that cater to a variety of interests and backgrounds and even better, the Students’ Union allows you to start your own Society. Take advantage of all of that. My happiest moments were spent in the groups I was involved in and during my lowest moments, it was the friends I made there who lifted me up and they still do today. There is no denying that your academic studies are extremely valuable and deserve your unwavering commitment, but it is all about balance and finding a greater purpose.
Finding Your Voice
Speaking of purpose, one of the best pieces of advice I was given was by my course leader, Zoe Swan, during Orientation. She said there is a fine line between moments that create a sort of short-term happiness and significant stepping stones, which pave the way to a more meaningful and fulfilling University experience. Keep your eyes on the bigger picture and think about your future career prospects, but also have an amendable plan. By the time you complete your studies, your work and the people you have met along the way will have undoubtedly transformed you and your outlook on life, so do not fall into the trap of committing to the same routine during your entire run. Make use of the excellent resources that are available to you: the Careers Service, your Course Leaders and Representatives and your personal tutors, among others. Also remember that the Students’ Union is here to support you both on an academic and personal level during every step of your journey. These are the people that fight for you and their ultimate goal is to ensure your experience is smooth sailing.
Share Your Knowledge
As for your approach to learning, reach out to your classmates and create an atmosphere that encourages sharing knowledge. Each of you has a unique learning style and something to offer. Indubitably, you will benefit so much more by spreading that and working together. There is truly room for everyone to succeed and a positive environment fosters it. Do not view others in your course as your competition. I learned a lot by watching other people and creating a collaborative environment, which can be done by setting up group chats so you can all exchange helpful information about any upcoming assignments you may have. Also, make it a habit to visit the different campuses, instead of strictly sticking to the one you regularly attend. Each campus has a different vibe and they all host various events on a weekly basis. And speaking of events, do not miss out on One World Week. This weeklong series of cultural celebrations is a prime showcase of the University’s diversity. Having last been home two years ago, the events made me feel like I never left, which in those moments meant everything.
By the time Refreshers’ Fair came around, I was grateful to have found three different Societies I enjoyed, and I went to the Fair to represent them. Just as I did not anticipate what would happen at the original Freshers’ Fair, Refreshers’ once again fundamentally shaped my path. It was there I began to hear about the Students’ Union Leadership Elections, which as a first year, was foreign territory for me. I had spent the better part of the year admiring the work the SU does in bettering the student experience, but I did not think for a second that I would be elected since I had only been a part of the University for a few months. I spent an infinite amount of time creating pro-and-con lists about whether I should actually nominate myself. I knew in my heart it was something I truly wanted to be involved in, but quite frankly, I was deeply worried about my chances since I had only recently joined the University. You will have countless moments during which you doubt your capabilities, denying yourself of some potentially incredible opportunities. A lot of people will tell you the same thing, but it always rings true: it is far better to try something and not receive the outcome you wanted, than fail to explore it at all. Do not be too hard on yourself and think of any setbacks you experience not as failures, but as stepping stones. We all learn and grow at our own rate and we can be far too harsh on ourselves in the process. View blips as nothing more than that and when things do not work out, remind yourself that you had the courage to try it in the first place. You never know what is waiting around the corner.
The people you meet along your journey will bring out the best in you. I cannot stress that enough. As I write this, I am filled with a deep sense of gratitude to each and every one of them because with their presence, my first year at the University surpassed my expectations. I keep thinking back to that very first week and Freshers’ Fair, and how it has influenced almost every single aspect of my time here. Had I not attended, I probably would have spent the better part of the year holed up in the library. Instead, I became actively involved in a variety of causes that made my academic journey far more dynamic. I hope each and every one of you finds their calling at University and remember, we are all rooting for you every step of the way. Please feel free to reach out at any time. We cannot wait to welcome you into the community. So here is to all of you and the unique path each of you will surely forge.
Wishing you the best,