As Freshers’ Week rolls around, new students in the UK may be feeling a mixture of emotions. “In a year as different and challenging as 2020 was (and 2021 still is), it was hard to truly experience university life with things such as Freshers’ not being able to run in person,” says Rena Brewer from the University of Glasgow.
She’s not alone — Freshers’ Week anxiety is real. Over 57% of prospective students and first years are anxious about in-person events, after over a year of social distancing. That’s why her university — along with 14 others including Imperial College London and the University of Sussex — are combining online and offline events for freshers this September.
Based on a hybrid model, ayda allows students to engage with their university community in a way that feels comfortable for them. The idea is to expand Freshers’ Week beyond the classic on-campus offering. This way, international students can even start to participate before they touch down in the UK.
“Freshers’ Week is an incredible moment in time for those in higher education and, whilst we don’t want to take away from the benefits of in-person events now that they are possible, we want to ensure that all students still have access to the same student experience no matter where they are and allow universities to showcase the best they have to offer,” says ayda CEO Dave Burgman.
“Everything I need, right there on my phone”
With ayda, users can access their digital options from any device, at any time. Brewer, for one, is glad to be experiencing Freshers’ Week in a new way. “Ayda allowed for that sense of normality, displaying student deals and internship or job opportunities that would have been stalled at Freshers’ Week whilst personalising the experience to our university,” she shares.
“It made Freshers’ Week simple, as I had everything that I needed all right there on my phone,” Brewer adds. “I know a lot of people are nervous about going back to campus and being around loads of people, so I would recommend you check in with your uni first and see what digital offering they have available.”
The app takes things one step further by providing personalised recommendations for each student — be it for advice, student deals, or societies and clubs. Its interface is fun and interactive, featuring 3D models of iconic campus landmarks. Brewer was particularly impressed by the digital versions of Glasgow’s library and main building.
Hybrid model breathes new life into Freshers’ Week
Students starting university in September are sure to experience many firsts as the world learns to navigate a post-pandemic era. “Moving student events online where socialisation is at their core was daunting,” Glen Whitcroft, Sales & Sponsorship Manager at Imperial College London admits. “But with ayda creating a digital solution based on the in-person event, the process was seamless and we were able to feature hundreds of societies, multiple students’ union departments, university services, charities and external partners so no Imperial College student missed out.”
Over at the University of Nottingham, student Ed Harvey finds that this hybrid Freshers’ Week model facilitates an important level of engagement for students from different backgrounds and interests.
“Whether this may be a Cocktail Society to make new friends or a sports team to play competitive sport, the University offers something for everyone,” he expresses. “Hybrid events are the easiest way for students to find what they are interested in; the personal engagement combined with the elevated experience beyond face-to-face adds even more value than a regular physical or digital fair.”