Hung-over after Freshers’ week? Lucy Cooksedge’s hilarious account of the expectations and realities of Freshers will cheer you up.
It’s impossible for prospective students, especially those with hopes, fears and
overactive imaginations like mine, to embark on Fresher’s Week without having envisioned how the first seven days of university will pan out. Leaving behind, and likely for the first time, your suffocating yet secure homely comforts and local Spoons is a pretty momentous event for any young adult. Soon to be thrown into the unfamiliar realm of new flatmates, nightclubs and libraries, it is perfectly natural to spend hours fantasising and fretting about what the first week of life at university could bring. You’ll probably look back, as I am, two years on, and realise that these high expectations are often met with realities which are pretty awkward and laughable in retrospect.
Shedding your stressed out A-Level skin in the back of your parent’s car, you expect to arrive at university as the ‘new you’. As you climb the stairs of the accommodation building for the very first time, you expect to magically evolve, finally released from the cocoon of your hometown and all its awkward interactions. You envision yourself wheeling a perfectly balanced suitcase through the front door of your new shared flat, sporting the remainder of an epic summer glow and beaming with newfound confidence and maturity. The calm and collected ‘new you’, eager to socialise.
Since Freshers’ Week kicks off at the same time for most universities, the motorways are
packed with over-packed cars, bursting with extra pillows, apprehensive parents and students, complaining that they won’t make their designated moving in ‘slot’. What if the accommodation office can’t let you in? Is Freshers’ Week ruined already?
Arriving a shocking half an hour late, the ‘new you’ is still hidden beneath a flushed, messy-haired and out of breath newcomer to such steep stairs, piled high with poorly balanced boxes which are sure to tumble any second, knocking out the new housemate a few steps below. With not enough hands to whip out the shiny new key to your flat, your mum offers to reach into your denim jacket for them, and suddenly you take on the persona of a hilariously awkward early teen. Mortified by the presence of your super eager parents and the sheer amount of stuff you seem to have in comparison to everybody you’re avoiding eye contact with in the hallway, you suddenly regret every decision you’ve ever made. These decisions include everything from your choice of parent to the items peeping out of your boxes, such as the tequila bottle and packet of
sombrero-shaped shot glasses which no longer seem like cute and fun housewarming gifts but utterly embarrassing.
Still glowing from last week’s ceremonial trip to Ikea, you’re absolutely buzzing about your perfectly sized, colour coordinated kitchen kit. You envision yourself as a culinary wizard, totally at ease in your spacious shared kitchen, whipping out your lovely new pans and impressing your flatmates with colourful, healthy dishes.
The microwave takes up a good half of the kitchen counter and you and your flatmates befriend it immediately. The first few nights out of the week half left you more hungry and hungover than you expected and all you can manage to muster up is the half price burrito you weren’t able to stomach at lunchtime, almost forgetting to remove the foil before reheating. As odours of reheated fast food disperse from the microwave and cloud both the kitchen and the mind, you realise you weren’t actually listening when mum taught you how to make your favourite pasta bake. The tags remain firmly attached to your new kitchen utensils for the entirety of Freshers’ Week, and the only vegetable you entertain is the tin of baked beans you got given at the welcome fair.
You envision yourself flourishing into a social butterfly during Freshers’ Week, attending society meetings and fluttering through your halls, making the library, coffee and cocktail appointments with new neighbours left, right and centre. You expect to know every face at pre-drinks by Wednesday.
Your accommodation block is massive and it’s difficult to gauge who looks friendly and who doesn’t. Crossing paths in the hallway, you start to question who you met at pre-drinks and who looks familiar just because they remind you of a friend from home. Did I embarrass myself in front of them last night? Was I too chatty? Should I say hello, or is that weird? Better not just in case.
The thought of going to a society meeting alone may be a little much, and you decide to put it off until next week when it might be less busy. Pre-drinks with your neighbours are more intimidating than you expect. The music is too loud to hear anybody properly and slight panic when trying to remember the name of the girl you hugged hello a few minutes ago and have definitely met before leaves you sticking closely to your flatmates, safe in your own little huddle. Aren’t people supposed to meet their soulmates during Freshers’ Week? Between deciding who to introduce yourself to next and when you should crack open your next beer, you mind wonders to your friends from home at their own Freshers’ Weeks in their own cities and you find yourself sat harassing the group chat before hitting the club you’ve never heard of, but everyone who was organised enough to buy a wristband says is the place to be.
You fully believe that Freshers’ Week will totally prepare you for starting lectures. You’ll have sussed out your lecture rooms and the library, having taken out books from your reading list and given them a long enough glance to know what they’re all about. You see yourself strutting around campus with more motivation than you had during A-Levels.
The excitement and exhaustion of Freshers’ Week has hit and you’ve made it through, despite your student loan dwindling as your headache increases. You rush around campus in a strange combination of last night’s make-up and an outfit which screams I TRIED NOT TO TRY TOO HARD with little idea of where you’re expected to be and when, let alone the name of your tutor. With Google Maps on your phone screen in one hand and the overpriced coffee you panic bought because you thought you were early shaking in the other, you realise that there is no way to prepare for Freshers’ Week, or ensure that it lives up to the wild expectations set up by older friends and social media. Giving surprisingly little insight into who and what exactly will shape the rest of your time at university is likely to pan out, It’s the kind of experience you can only look back on as character building.
Illustration by Mae Farrow.