I Survived Freshers’ Week
2012-09-14 05:13 PMStudent Life
As another Freshers’ Week trundles by, newspapers and student publications have yet again wheeled out the same old tired Freshers’ Week Survival Guides, populated by such unhelpful tips as “keep a tin of biscuits in your room for visitors”. But what about the reality? What is Freshers’ Week really like? One battle-scarred Edinburgh student gives you her startlingly honest account of her Freshers’ Week experience…
“Freshers’ had turned me into a monster”
The last 12 months have been pretty uneventful for me. I have not travelled to Uganda to work in an orphanage. I have not written a book about it either. University was meant to be the place that changed all of this and guess what? It wasn’t. However, with a new academic year ahead I have vowed to self-medicate with a sceptic’s hardest drug: positivity. For while I did not win a Nobel Prize during my first year at Edinburgh, I, as one of the 400,000 people that began university in the UK last year, did do something quite incredible… I survived Freshers’ Week.
People say that when something really traumatic happens, like a car crash, the brain’s immediate reaction is to remove it from recollection. I like to think that the reason my memory of Freshers’ Week is so patchy has more to do with this than the Red Bull fountains and 2 for 1 shots. One phrase uttered to me on the first day was “this is the most brutal form of socialising you will ever do in your life”. Wow. I sat there on her bedroom floor, staring up at her, absorbing all her information as if it was the Divine Truth. She had been telling me about her gap year in South America. Someone that had been sand boarding in Huacachina and visited the salt flats in Bolivia was bound to know the truth, right?
However, I soon began to learn that everyone had done that. And everyone could talk about that. So for a week I would sit there and listen to people’s experiences in Cambodia, willing that someone, somewhere, would ask what everyone thought of the latest Cos collection or whether the natural or the fruit flavour of frozen yoghurt was better. Not exactly soul-seeking stuff but then maybe someone else’s answer would be ‘natural’ too and then we could hold each other's hands and scream excitably, reveling in our new potential friendship and vowing to go and find a Snog somewhere in Edinburgh. It’s achingly artificial but somehow it’s the unspoken mantra of Freshers’. You’re sinking in deep water, desperately grappling at anything to keep yourself afloat, no matter how tenuous the branches are.
Then there were the nights out. Those painful club nights which were the only antidote to FOMO (fear of missing out) but yet still made you wish that you were anywhere else in the world, having drunken yourself into a senseless oblivion where the music cannot be heard and you cannot acknowledge the fact that yes, you are dancing alone. Sleep deprived, hungover and starting to wonder whether a university degree was really worth all this, I suddenly realised that Freshers’ Week had turned me into a monster. I was not the kind of monster that had spent the week prostituting herself on Arthur's Seat and brushing her teeth with vodka. Instead, I was a paranoid mess, one eye always seeking out other opportunities and lips curled into the most painfully disorientated smile. I am nice. Please, please someone realise that I am nice.
I was also a reverse snob, or maybe just a snob – it’s hard to tell anymore. Whatever I was, it wasn’t particularly nice. You’re from boarding school? Let’s just quit while we’re ahead eh? I guess I had just never really been around people that were different to me. For some reason, I imagined university to be an opportunity to meet new and interesting people, discuss the meaning of life and learn to play the ukulele: a kind of Laura-Marling-come-Clarissa-Dalloway oestrogen-fuelled fantasy. Somehow it was a bit more Made In Chelsea than this.
Then one day, as if by magic, I realised that everything was okay. The epiphany came when I found myself sitting in my friend’s room, strategising over the best way to ensure we were first in the queue when the Marni line was launched in H&M the next day (I had never believed in soul mates before). Although impossible to even contemplate at the time, it gets easier and everyone does calm down. It really isn’t just good things that come to an end. There’s only so much small talk you can have before it becomes microscopic. And luckily drinking games get boring.
I still have not been to Uganda and I think it’s safe to say that Aung San Suu Kyi does not need to worry about any 19 year olds with a slightly unhealthy addiction to Cos-online swiping the Congressional Gold Medal from under her nose. But like you endure your grandad’s occasional rants about World War Two, allow me this. For while I may not have been there when the Luftwaffe launched its first offensive, I did live to tell the Freshers’ Tale… And frankly, I think that deserves a medal.
Written by Tabby Powell-Tuck
2nd year student @ the University of Edinburgh