Roar writer Dania Quadri discusses the fantasies vs realities of Freshers’ Week.
Coming into university, we’re always told to be prepared for the best times of our lives: Freshers’ Week. It is a period of freedom, independence and exploration. Our best moments flash before our eyes days before we even begin university, and we imagine them to be seamlessly woven into two chaotic weeks – we’re going to meet our best friends, find a sense of belonging at the first society that sounds appealing, and find an intelligent and beautiful soulmate.
At the end of two long weeks of partying, we see ourselves living the dream: laughing with our new multicultural friends, running late to induction sessions – only to find that they have saved you a seat. You sink into your lecture chair with an overpriced coffee and smile: the world is as it should be. The clichés were real.
Or not. As a mature student who has attended two Freshers’ Weeks, I can attest to this being very far from the truth. Freshers’ Week is chaotic. It is a high-pressure environment which seems like everyone but you have it sorted. (Spoiler alert: they don’t.)
Imagine this: during the day, you drag along with people who had extended a kind gesture and invited you to sit at lectures with them. You try to join in on their jokes, but one day you realise you’re not sitting with them anymore. In fact, you prefer this. You prefer being on your own and tell yourself you will find your people during a Freshers’ evening event.
But everyone at partying events is too wasted to remember you the next day. Some confident teetotallers are around, exploring their sexuality and alcohol tolerance – and you’re just not feeling it. The boy who said you have really beautiful eyes and took your number is now hitting on someone else. Rumour has it he is fresher fishing, and you breathe a sigh of relief. You wish you had agreed to date Jamal in Year 11, whose beautiful biceps now glisten on Instagram. At least you’d have company to endure the night.
I hated Freshers’ Week both times. The days seemed never-ending and the obligation to make fun memories was overbearing. I found it strange to be ignored by people who had offered me pot last night. Didn’t we just spend two hours talking, didn’t we exchange numbers, didn’t you say we should hang out sometime and that you meant it? May I add this was before any sort of inebriation took place?
I expected to partake in fun, stimulating conversations by day and explore London by night. Instead, on one of my first days, I found myself in a group of girls who made fun of my accent. ‘Mate, isn’t she like sooo fresh?’ a girl said when I pronounced her name the way her language demanded for it to be pronounced. Unfortunately for you, I am culturally aware, I defensively mused. I then excused myself and left the building, my overwhelming sense of dread trailing after me.
The hype surrounding Freshers’ Week makes it feel like something is wrong with you if by the end of it you haven’t found your flock, or have crazy stories to tell your pals back home. But there is absolutely nothing wrong in feeling overwhelmed by an overwhelming environment!
Let’s get this straight: some people do find their flock and relay crazy stories to their friends, and that’s good for them. The danger is when you come in with the expectations of it being the best time of your life, and it doesn’t end up being so. The pressure of leaving home and moving to the capital can make it harder to fulfil these expectations. Everyone, including Londoners, is in an entirely new environment. Furthermore, do not underestimate the impact of beginning university during a pandemic; that in itself is commendable!
Feeling safe and exploring your identity may not happen the moment you set foot on campus. That’s fine. For some students, certain factors such as their mental and physical health, and the random chance of meeting like-minded people very early on, align during Freshers’ Week. This pushes them to experiencing Freshers’ Week as they expected. But if you’re not one of those people, that is okay.
The objective of Freshers’ Week is to experience it. In whichever way you choose to. Have fun, by all means, be brave, chat to everyone, and reach out in a way that’s comfortable for you. But equally know that this is only the start of university. You will invariably make friends along the way.
I strongly recommend that you build an ecosystem outside of King’s in the following weeks. Make friends with the grocer, the librarian, your local coffee shop barista, join Meetups and try Bumble friends. Stepping out of the University Bubble makes you realise that there is life beyond university. Socialising in this realm will assuage any doubts of you ending up friendless. When you find familiar faces off-campus, the prospect of making friends on-campus seems less urgent. In turn, the lack of urgency eases the anxiety and fear of being alone, and you can find comfort in your current social pacing at university.
So, all the best for Fresher’s Week, and I look forward to seeing you on the other side. Remember, it may not be the best time of your life, and I hope I’ve convinced you that that is beyond okay. In fact, it’s perfectly normal for many of us!