We’ve all been there, walking around the Freshers’ Fair being handed numerous flyers and free pens in an attempt to get us to join a society. And we do. We join as many as possible thinking to ourselves that this will finally be the year we take up surfing or Brazilian Jiu Jitsu as a regular hobby.
Once we’ve joined the various societies and been invited to the groups on Facebook, that’s where the real fun begins. We are inundated with event invitations almost immediately, for going to various pubs and clubs to get ridiculously drunk with people we barely know. And as if that’s not enough, we’re usually expected to go in fancy dress where we’ll almost certainly be judged on the effort, or lack of it, that we’ve made.
Now I’m not saying that this isn’t fun; the majority of us love going out to meet new people, especially in our first year at university. Socials are a really good way to meet the committee of a society and its members to decide if we really want to pay the membership fee and join up for the year. But what seems to be happening more often than not is that these ‘welcome’ socials, and every social afterwards, are becoming alcohol-fuelled, with members being set challenges which can lead to the ‘losers’ being ‘punished’ by drinking more!
The calm before the storm.
Anyone who has never been to such an event tends to have no idea about what they could potentially be put through. This happened to me not so long ago; I was naive and thought I was in for a great night of fun and socialising. Instead, I was actually left feeling uncomfortable and a bit put out at how I’d been treated as a potential newcomer to a society.
I recently visited a friend at Gloucestershire University where we went to a society’s ‘circle’ social, so called because all the members sit in a circle. We had to dress up as garden gnomes, which we thought sounded fun as it was a bit different to the usual cops and robbers theme. Whilst we were out shopping for our outfits, my friend received a text from someone from the society saying that we had to bring a fishing rod with us because it had been chosen as a compulsory item. I had no problem with this at all, great idea to have a fishing rod! What did alarm me was the word ‘compulsory.’ What would happen if we didn’t bring one with us? Well we weren’t taking any chances, so we found some long sticks, got out the string and paper and cut some coloured fish out.
We were supposed to meet at a pub in town at 8pm sharp but we were running late (due to a leak in the house which required us to wait for the landlord to come and sort it out!) We ended up being about forty-five minutes late, which I didn’t think would be a big deal because I (mistakenly) thought it was just a casual social at a pub where we could slip in, buy a drink and start chatting. I hadn’t grasped onto the whole ‘circle’ social idea and so I wasn’t expecting to turn up and be faced with grumpy looking gnomes sitting in a circle who wouldn’t budge up to make room for their fellow gnome friends! This is where I should point out that all of the gnomes were female. I thought this would’ve meant they’d be more understanding of our lateness, but instead we were ordered to buy two pints of cider and black and a bottle of WKD, specifically the blue one.
I was feeling a bit put out by this point, especially because I wasn’t actually a student of Gloucestershire University. But hey ho, I bought the required drinks only then to be ordered to down half a pint because of our lateness! As the evening went on we had to do numerous drinking games which granted were quite fun, but it did mean that we all needed the toilet a lot! As more and more of us started going to the toilets, (which for me I consider a basic human right!) the gnomes in charge started to get annoyed. As a result, they enforced the rule of doing press-ups whilst drinking your pint with a straw to be allowed to go to the toilet! There was no way that I was going to put myself through the embarrassment of attempting a press-up, regardless of how much I needed the toilet!
The evening was nearly over, but not before the WKDs were put to ‘good’ use. We were put into three separate teams to race against each other by strawpedoing our WKDs as quickly as possible. After the most unpleasant few seconds, with half the liquid dribbling down my chin (attractive!) I was finally free to go and enjoy the rest of my evening as I wished. Thank the gnomes!
Having had my first and probably my last experience of an initiation, I can only hope that other people know exactly what lies in store for them. Fancy dress is normally a good clue, especially if you’re being asked to come dressed as a worm when the second and third-years are going as birds! All I can suggest is following these three simple rules: embrace the experience, stay out of the way of the equivalent of the ‘gnome bosses’ and avoid blue WKDs at all costs…