Freshers’ Week is infamously known as the alcohol-fuelled week of partying to start the university experience. This year, due to extraordinary circumstances throughout the world, it was very different. The multitude of events put on by student unions had to follow strict Covid-19 protocols, meaning partying and excessive drinking were put on hold. For many this seemed a significant blow. Having events every night is a challenge hundreds of thousands of students take head on and absolutely love.
On a positive note, for those freshers who have been disheartened by the lack of parties, clubbing, and entertainment on offer, there will always be opportunities to meet people, including those who are keen to drink. New students who worry about the prospect of having to make friends without plenty of alcohol for Dutch courage should not worry at all. Freshers’ Week, despite all the hype, often fails to live up to expectations – it can actually be a very nerve-wracking time. As one of my first lecturers presented so clearly, university is a unique time in a young person’s life, by which she meant that little else requires you to move across the country or even the world and to leave your family and friends behind at such a young age. The first week is often spent simply adjusting to this huge change and meeting an overwhelming amount of new people. Weeks later, you may discover that many of those new people you will add on Snapchat or follow on Instagram who may seem, in that particular intoxicated moment, to be potential life-long friends, will never be seen or communicated with again.
Personally, this weighed on my mind quite heavily, especially at the start of university life. I was often told university was where I was going to make friendships to last a lifetime and the thought this just wasn’t going to happen for me concerned me greatly. This was coupled with having to decide where you want to live and who you want to live with within the first four months if you want to get the best available places for second year. In my experience, however, it was not people I met in the initial week who I ended up living with. I have four friends from my first-year flat who mean a lot to me and who I am extremely excited to live with for another year. I was especially fortunate with my flat as I also found someone I fell in love with. I understand not everyone will have the same experience, but the great thing about university is people are on a socially level playing field and the ability to shake off the labels and baggage from secondary school is what makes it a place where anyone from differing backgrounds and with differing interests can thrive.
I urge every university student to make sure they join at least one sport or a society, as these groups focus as much or even more on the social side than anything else. If you can combine meeting new people with some exercise, being able to extend your knowledge in a subject, or express your passion for a cause then there is no harm in it at all.
Freshers’ Week is certainly not the be-all and end-all of your first-year experience. If I could say anything to all new students it would be this: while you may miss out on one week of particularly intense partying, there is no lack of opportunities to have a great time and meet friends who will present themselves over the next three or four years.