Fitting in at uni

Although almost three years ago now, my memories of being a dental school fresher are still as vivid as ever. All the nerves, excitement, new experiences, new faces, everything.

So what was I nervous about? Well, the short answer is everything. Of course there were all the usual worries that go with the transition to university life; will I manage to survive being away from home? Will I make any friends? But there were also additional worries linked to the course; what if I struggle to do the work? What if I find dentistry really isn’t for me? Thankfully, almost all these nerves gave way to excitement as I headed into freshers’ week.

Dental school is much more than just dentistry, and this is no more evident than in the first few weeks as a fresher. This is the point when you get to know your new dental ‘family’ on a social level. These are the people you’re going to be spending the next five years (and probably many more) with, helping each other through all the highs and lows the course will bring.

At Newcastle Dental School we have one of the most active dental student societies (affectionately known as DentSoc). From day one the committee went out of its way to provide opportunities not only for the freshers to meet and get to know each other, but also for the more senior students to integrate with us, binding the whole of the dental school community together.

One of the first events organised was a ‘meet the parents’ pub crawl, a chance to really get to know your dental ‘mum’ or ‘dad’ (and even ‘grandparents’) from the years above. The dental school also has its own pub, the ‘Crown and Bridge’, which is a fantastic place to meet friends and more senior students. The occasional lecturer/clinician has even been spotted enjoying themselves there too.

The pub is often host to theme nights and memorable highlights from my first few weeks include the Mexican, Hawaiian and Halloween fancy dress parties, and a DentSoc annual video campaign for the committee’s new president.

Sadly, being a fresher isn’t all about going out despite what friends on other courses seem to say, and there is that small matter of work to do. At first I did find the pace of lectures and the volume of information a little overwhelming, but everyone soon settled down to their own methods of learning as the term progressed.

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the work during my first year was the seemingly irrelevant topics covered such as metabolism and molecular biology. It’s only now, as a third year student, that I am really beginning to appreciate their importance. However, highlights such as anatomy classes more than made up for that frustration.

Looking back now, I needn’t have worried in the days leading up to the first term. You’ve just got to remember that everyone is in the same boat as you, harbouring similar hopes and fears. With so many opportunities to work and socialise together, you can’t help but make friends on the course.

As for the workload as a fresher, it’s all a case of getting the balance right. You need to be highly motivated and keep yourself up-to-date with all that’s going on, but there’s no need to have your head in the books 24/7. The lecturers have had years of experience and know that, as a fresher, your priorities are a little different to what they would be in your final year!

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