Explaining Freshers to My Iraqi Father

Photo credits: Munia Zaki

Everyone’s Freshers’ is different, but they all share one thing: they’re full of stories in the making. Today’s Fresher Voice is Munia, a first-year English student, explaining Freshers to her father.

“Fish week?” a voice with heavy-ladened accent confusingly replies to my attempt at explaining Freshers Week. This is my father, born and raised in Baghdad, with whom I live. In anticipation of your ‘why’: firstly, it’s a half hour commute to my campus, secondly, he likes cooking my favourite meals and gets excited about new detergent scents he can use to wash my laundry; thirdly, he wouldn’t subsidise my London rent so he’d be able to keep an eye on me – smart move baba. Though Iraqi, my father is unusual for a conservative Arab father: we have a pretty open, very loving and incredibly banterous relationship.

As Freshers’ Week commences on Sunday, I plan to drop-in at The Vault for an ice-breaker before heading to a party that a friend I met at the commuter meet-up told me about. My father is fine with me partying…not so much train-ing home alone. The evening of the party I find myself in the passenger seat of his car as he unapologetically drives me, yep, DRIVES ME, all the way to Strand. This wouldn’t be a big deal if, say, it was down the road from home. But I live in southwest London, 15 miles away from Strand. A journey which can take half an hour by train took two glorious hours– thanks to all the Londoners returning from their weekends away– through which I was trying to convince my dad to drop me to the nearest tube station so I could make my own way to the party and get an Uber home. He smugly objected as he had already arranged to meet a friend at my favourite Turkish restaurant in Picadilly, Boobja (I really recommend getting the Laham Ajeen there). Again, nice one baba: making plans so I can’t persuade him otherwise, and trying to entice me to join him instead of going out.

Photo credits: Munia Zaki

Monday morning and we’re both awake at 5am, tummies hurting from eating too much heavy kebab hours earlier. I triumphantly declare I’m off to the gym before my Campus tour, pitching it at just the right tone so I know he can’t object… and instead walks me to the station because the sun hasn’t risen yet. He used to insist that I constantly message him my whereabouts, but I started ignoring his texts so he finally got the message – I couldn’t resist missing that pun. Now, I only text him when I’m on the train home so by the time I enter the door, food is on the table – it’s a win-win situation.

By Wednesday, the onset of Storm Ali is blustering away. My father pleads with me to take the single tube stop from Waterloo to Embankment in case I get blown off the bridge. I’m used to his dramatic ways, but laugh out loud at him still. The next day he complacently emails me a BBC link headlining a woman dying after the wind blew her caravan off a cliff.

That weekend, my dad held his own ‘fish’ party. He was so thrilled that his eldest daughter got into King’s that he threw a massive party with our whole Iraqi community, lasting until about 3am. My favourite part was when the massive lamb dish came out with not just one, but two sparklers on top – Iraqi style!

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