Freshers’ Week: seven days of meeting complete strangers, clubbing, drinking and terrifying welcome talks. After what for most has been a painful and difficult year and a half lost due to COVID-19, it’s back and better than ever.
With restrictions having been lifted, students are finally free to mingle to their heart’s content – no rules of six, no two metre safety bubbles, no 10pm curfew, just complete liberty. Who’d have ever thought we’d see the day? Whilst this is great news, I can’t help but feel that there are immense pressures placed on first years to live up to the friend-making, binge-drinking, sleep-deprived stereotype that everyone associates with Freshers. Don’t get me wrong, it is fine if your first few weeks at university were spent a little bit like that, but is it really the end of the world if you do it differently? The answer is no, not at all, and here’s my outlook on why.
As a third year whose university experience has predominantly been spent either at home or sat behind a screen in Exeter, it’s safe to say that my Freshers’ Week experience now feels like a moment in the very distant past. I was a bright-eyed and fresh-faced eighteen-year-old who was ready to take on a new, exciting (and equally as petrifying) chapter in my life. My days were spent coming to terms with my new-found independence, and my nights saw me dancing in clubs with people that I’d only just met. Every. Single. Night. No wonder I’d fallen victim to freshers’ flu by day two. It was a lot of fun, yes, but would I do it again? Maybe not.
You might think I sound like a tired old lady here, and I really do, but I honestly think there is so much more to Freshers Week than the excessive alcohol consumption and questionably themed club nights. If you don’t like clubbing, don’t feel pressured into going out just because your flatmates are. Similarly, if you meet someone who doesn’t feel like going out, make sure that you respect their boundaries.
Freshers is sadly characterised by peer-pressure, but this can easily be fixed if people were just the tiniest bit more mindful. Contrary to the binge-drinking culture that is promoted within the Exeter community (don’t forget to EG!), a life dedicated to the sesh isn’t appealing to everyone and no one should ever feel pressured into taking part into activity against their will. Besides, there are more ways to socialise and meet people during Freshers that, shock-horror, don’t include drinking and clubbing! Exeter is such a rich city that has so much to offer in terms of sports, green spaces, independent cafes and other shops that you can visit with your new friends. Why not swap a night out for a wholesome movie night or a meal down by the Quay? Your body and sleep schedule will thank you for it, believe me.
The next big question about Freshers is this: should you be making a special effort to gain loads of new friends during your initial weeks at university? Many of you will have been sent off on your way with family and friends saying, “You’ll make lifelong friends at uni!”. Though this is usually true in the long run, I’d be incredibly surprised if you managed to meet your future bridesmaids or best men in week one – or in your first year, even! Don’t get me wrong, it’s great if you do find a group of people who you can imagine spending the rest of your life with, but there’s also no need to worry if you don’t.
I was lucky enough to have some great flatmates in my first year, but I didn’t find all of my ‘people’ and settle into a proper group until second year. You have so much time to make friends, so don’t waste your first year desperately trying to secure ties with different friendship groups. Everything happens for a reason, so trust your instinct and you’ll eventually fall into a friendship group. Like fate, it just happens. Also, don’t feel like you must add every single person that you meet on social media – I really can’t stress this enough. You’ll probably text them “it was so nice to meet you!” and never speak to them again, only to be reminded of their existence when you look at your snapchat maps and think “who even is that?”. Learn from my mistakes and save yourself the struggle before it’s too late, please.
If there’s one thing that you should take from this, it is that Freshers’ Week is a completely unique experience for everyone. There’s no wrong or right way to spend it, so try not to compare your experiences to other people – as difficult as this may be. At the end of the day, it all depends on what makes you happy, not someone else. You’ve got an entire degree’s worth of time to have your fun, so don’t feel the need to burn yourself out in the first week. Find what works for you and, above all, have the best time – whatever that might entail!
– Isabella Ankerson
Feature Image Source: Pexels