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Navigating the freshers’ battleground

‘There are only so many times you can go to Wednesday night sports socials at Walkabout before those cheap snakebites have stained not only every piece of clothing you own, but the very fibres of your soul.’

It’s safe to say that freshers’ really is one of the most chaotic and tumultuous experiences you will go through in your entire time at university, even throughout life itself. Between trying to settle into your new surroundings, seeking out the makings of your clique and being confronted and coerced by reps from every club, society and union going, it really can feel like strolling into a battlefield with nothing but a smile and good intentions.

So here’s a heads-up on a few of the things myself and some other recent veterans of King’s wish we knew in our first few days and months, to help you negotiate The Somme of social situations while shots of vodka and bombs of jaeger blow substantial chunks out of your once lucrative student loan.

‘Thinking about it, if I could suggest anything to a fresher it would be to ensure that you’re organised from the word go!’ Rob Fawcett, second year History

This is easily the biggest cliché going in the fresher survival guide world, but there’s no smoke without fire – just like there’s no adrenaline-overdosed, anxiety-attack inducing dash to a last minute deadline if you’ve got yourself well and truly prepared for it. Get an idea of when your deadlines are, work towards them in well managed steps and make sure you’ve got all the materials and textbooks needed for it well in advance to avoid that 21:55 hunt around Waterstone’s desperately searching for their last copy of Chaucer.

‘The one serious thing I wish I knew and was prepared for was the insanely large amount of things we have to read in such a small time space’ Daisy Howard, second year History

Once work starts piling up on you, other areas of your life will start to suffer as well, and it can be hard if not impossible to drag yourself back if you start falling seriously behind. Also remember that this isn’t school anymore, your lecturers aren’t there to tell you off so make sure to go to them for any help you need, and make the most of the online resources and libraries. Appreciate those extended library hours that people fought hard for. Once you’ve trained your handwriting to accommodate the shaking that comes from too much caffeine and too little sleep, you’ll be unstoppable.

‘In all honesty, looking back I would say buy a flask, so you don’t spend so much bloody money buying coffee when you’re on campus’ Jess Minnis, second year German

I can already hear snorts of incredulity from hotheaded young-bloods among you who last used a flask to take Ribena into primary school for packed lunch. But believe me, it’s the small things that make a huge difference to how far your budget goes, and you’ll be thanking me when you’re not forced to spend the last week of every month subsisting on 10p ramen noodles and regret. Always be sure to compare prices between stores in different areas as they vary hugely depending on the store’s location, and never impulse-buy. Everything you need is right on your doorstep, and there’s no problem going back to get something a day or two later when you’re sure there’s not a better deal out there. In freshers’ you’ll be bombarded with commercial discount offers on sites like HelloU and Wowcher – make the most of these because every per cent off will be money in the bank for you.

‘Someone told me in Freshers’ week, “Look after security and security will look after you.” I have lived by that rule and it does pay off.’ Hannah Locke, second year English

When it comes to negotiating the minefield of living in halls, there are definitely a few tips to getting ahead and this is one of them. You never know when you’re going to lose your keys or need someone to cut some slack on the wall-to-wall debauchery that is the halls pre-lash, and a smile and quick conversation will go a long way to building a good relationship with members of staff. The same goes with your flatmates, and even if you’re not the best of friends at least try and keep good levels of communication going, or it can lead to some very awkward experiences. If such an occasion is to arise, you need to find ways of dealing with it head on rather than just allowing things to grow uncomfortable. As our deputy culture editor Chloe Moss will testify, watching Steve McQueen’s harrowing tale of sex addiction ‘Shame’ at a high volume will not prevent you from hearing the sounds of your next door neighbour’s sexual exploits through the pitifully thin walls, and will if anything probably only contribute to their rampancy.

‘Everybody finds the transition hard but no one talks about it, and if they did it might make it a little easier.’  Sarah Garrett, second year English

This couldn’t be more true. So much pressure is placed upon university, and particularly Freshers’, to be the golden times of your life, and many people can feel underwhelmed or that their experience isn’t matching up to everyone else’s. With social media like Facebook and Twitter forming such a large part of our lives, other people’s experiences are going to be on constant display, and ‘Fresher Pressure’ can seriously begin to weigh on the mind. On top of this, many people come to university with a very fixed perception of who they are or, conversely, what they’d like their new university persona to be. Roar! music editor Oscar King suggests “just be as personable to everyone as possible because you never know who they might turn out to be.” Even if you don’t stay friends with everybody you meet in Freshers’, if you cast your net wide and meet as many people as possible the chances are there will be a few relationships in there that’ll stay good for years to come, if not the rest of your life. Which leads us on to…

‘For the first term I don’t think we made the most of London. Suddenly as summer exams were coming there was very little time to go to the far flung attractions, markets, pubs and clubs that were on the hit-list’ Isabel Collinge, second year History

One of the main things a lot of people say they regret coming to the end of their first year is not taking more time to discover new places to go and things to do, and generally taking advantage of living in our vibrant and diverse capital city. While Freshers’ events are a good launching platform for your new social life, it’s good to move outside the bubble and discover more niche places suited to you. From cheap dance clubs in Dalston to your classier Mayfair watering holes, you’ll be rewarded for taking the step out of your comfort zone and looking for something different. Ask second and third years, or other first years who are already London residents, for advice on the best places to go (for future Stamford Street Residents, The Lord Nelson pub down by Southwark Station and its £2.50 pints is a good shout). There are only so many times you can go to Wednesday night sports socials at Walkabout before those cheap snakebites have stained not only every piece of clothing you own, but the very fibres of your soul.

‘I had no idea just how liberal things were about to get… definitely don’t attach my name to that one.’ Anonymous Student, second year History (because we couldn’t let them get away with complete anonymity).

That’s right, we’ve hit the cornerstone of the Freshers’ experience – you’ve been released into the big wide world, and it’s time to explore and encounter people and situations you never would have come across until now. Just be sure to keep an open mind, and be respectful of other people around you. University is a great place to get into politics, and there are plenty of affiliated societies to get involved in, but remember that drunken political debates will not solve the nation’s ills, and have a tendency to get ugly very quickly. Long story short, regard any alcohol-serving establishment as a politically neutral zone, and avoid the cretin during Freshers’ who spends their time standing in the smoking area extolling the values of Thatcher’s economic policy.

Hopefully this is a good starting point in helping you make your way through the pitfalls and infamy of Freshers’, and perhaps even make it out of the other side with minimal embarrassment and a passable grade. It goes to show that there are plenty of people out there just waiting to pass on their wisdom and guidance, so never be afraid to ask. And if you can’t be good, be lucky.



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