Freshers With Hindsight: Questionable Chants, Drunken Injuries and Clean Knickers

Going in to my third and final year at uni, it was difficult to control that twinge of jealousy seeing Freshers arriving, entire unnecessary reading list in one suitcase, jumbo box of condoms in another. Not for them worries about dissertations, or thoughts of “what the hell am I doing once I’ve scraped that 2.1?” And probably the most difficult thing about coming to the end of your time at uni is that, pardon the cliché, but it really does feel like just yesterday that you stumbled through the hallowed doors of the Big O for the first time.

My friends and I still refer back to the earliest few weeks of first year and laugh. It really is the strangest, most hilariously awkward experience of your life. And I grew up faster than a baby on steroids in those few weeks. There are some lessons you learn as a Fresher that will never be unlearnt (whether you like it or not)…

Halls are underwhelming on first impressions...

 

Team Spirit is a must. But don’t create your own in-group.

Never is Hall-Loving as strong as during Week One. Your Reps are seemingly born to feed you chants that criticise everyone that isn’t on that bus. If you’re in catered Halls, you are not our friend. If you go to Trent, you are not our friend. And, for my block, who bonded quickly and vocally, if you were in any other block, you were not our friend.

Many an awkward memory do I have of sitting at the back of the bus like an over-excited Year 9 while we hijacked the organised chant and screeched “I’m Birches ‘til I die” down the ears of every unfortunate soul destined to share space with us.

With hindsight: Best to not make the rest of your Halls hate you, eh?

"Group photo, before someone punches those idiots at the back!"

 

Think before you speak

This is a general rule for life, but particularly prudent when you’re meeting a lot of people for the first time. You don’t know your new friends’ backgrounds, circumstances, personal histories.

Be tactful if you end up talking about religion, politics, anything potentially touchy. Stay away from ‘Your Mum’ jokes until you know people a bit more.

With hindsight: Don’t have a laugh about someone’s dead hamster until you know exactly how close they were to it.

 

Don’t think TOO MUCH before you speak

Because spontaneous comments make for great memories. One friend’s observation on the first night in Halls that “we’ll probably be each other’s bridesmaids!” is still admired as one of the most upfront pleas for friendship known to Freshers.

With hindsight: It’s good to be optimistic about your new friends.

 

It’s OK to miss your friends from home.

One incident that sticks in mind started when we left one of the girls at a club, thinking she was with someone else. It wasn’t until she returned home, distraught because not only was she on her own, but she’d fallen over in the rush for cabs and been ‘trampled by EVERYONE’, that we realised our mistake. Now, we laugh. The whole thing is a bit funny; I patched up her knee with an unnecessarily large plaster, which she ripped off in the morning to reveal a graze that even Monica Gellar would struggle to find. We managed to comfort her, then squeeze 4 of us in to a rickety single for a sleepover (an attempt soon abandoned).

But the reality of the situation was actually quite upsetting. We’d left someone alone in an unfamiliar city. The ‘trampling’ could have been a lot worse. And it was sad to hear her say “this wouldn’t happen at home”, despite her assertions that she didn’t blame us.

With hindsight: As a rule, look after your new friends as you would your home friends. Also, single beds are not made for 4 people.

Don't believe Pornhub - this is the reality of four 18 year old girls in a bed

 

You’re not at college anymore…

Remember at A Level, when you were top of your class? The teacher loved you, your classmates slightly despised you, your work was paraded as a ‘SHINING EXAMPLE OF ENGLISH/CHEMISTRY/PHILOSOPHY/GENERAL STUDIES GENIUS’. Sorry, but probably not anymore. You’re now amongst a group of people who achieved pretty much exactly the same grade as you did. And, as I found out to my disappointment, some of them, sometimes, are going to do better than you.

This will differ between modules and between individual assessments, but don’t expect to have lecturers worshipping you as their star pupil.

With hindsight: The only way you’ll get lecturers to worship you is if you consistently turn up to every 9am.

 

It’s OK to ask for help

I was unlucky enough to end up in hospital a couple of weeks in to uni. I’d been feeling seriously unwell for a while, and when some routine blood tests came back showing some dodgy numbers I was told to get myself to A&E ASAP. I’ll never forget sitting alone outside Portland Building, having just got the call from Cripps. It was the only time during the whole experience that I was seriously scared, because I was on my own at uni, I had seminar prep to do, I didn’t have the energy to walk back to my Halls, I didn’t even know where bloody A&E was, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to call my Mum for help because I was an adult now - (Ha).

I got back to Halls, waited outside for my cab, bumped in to my two flatmates who were coming home and promptly burst in to tears. So much for my no-fuss, sneaky escape. Despite my protestations that I was “seriously fine, it’s probably nothing”, they came with me; waited with me for 6 hours in A&E; reassured me it was OK to get Domino’s delivered to a hospital, and waved me off when I was admitted. And when the ‘quick pop  in to hospital’ turned in to a five-day stay, the lot of them came to visit, my flatmate brought me an overnight bag, called me regularly to catch me up on everything that was going on.

I was so adamant that uni was the time to look after myself. I eventually let my Mum come up to help out when it all got a bit too much, and I’m not ashamed to admit that there was no bigger relief than seeing her cute little reliable face at the door. And what would I have done without friends who thought of things like fresh underwear, shampoo and conditioner when I had my mind on other things? Well, I probably would have smelt pretty rough. But I’d also have felt a bit alone.

With hindsight: You may have only known these people a few weeks, but I promise you, they’re going to be willing to help without any hesitation should you need it. And any favours will no doubt be repaid at some point. Don’t be afraid to ask if you need a hand (or some Herbal Essences Minis).

Hospital food ain't cracked up to much you see...

 

Money is a worry for everyone

The first time I was seriously worried about money was around the end of my first year, when the payment for a Tesco order bounced and I realised I’d maxed out a measly £250 overdraft. So much for “I’m never going below 0 while I’m at uni; I just won’t GET an overdraft!” A quick check of the accounts and I’d managed to work something out – drama avoided. But worrying about how much money I’ve got has been pretty much a constant thing since then.

What I’ve come to realise, is that it’s an extremely lucky student who doesn’t ever have these worries. There are people better off than me who stress out as much as I do, and there are people in a much worse financial position than myself who worry about affording food, rather than ‘that lush bag from Topshop’.

With hindsight: This is the one time of your life you can live out of your overdraft interest-free. Embrace it.

 

I don’t really have any regrets about Freshers – the week itself or the entire year. Sometimes, I wish I’d done more productive things with my time than building duvet forts and watching my way through IMDBs entire psychological thriller category list. I’m in third year and I’m still yet to do that First Aid course I’ve been meaning to do since Year 1; I still haven’t ventured anywhere near that definitely worthwhile CV workshop. Any sensible person probably would have ticked those things off the list by now, but I would never say my First Year was a waste of time. It was solely dedicated to creating some ‘hashtag memories’ – and if you come out of uni without those, you’ve done something wrong.

Have a happy First Year,  UoN Freshers!

When exams are getting too much...build a fort to hide in