The most important thing to keep in mind during Freshers’ Week is that it is supposed to be fun. This may seem obvious but people take it far too seriously. A five minute conversation had in the stairwell with a flat mate will not determine your social standing for the rest of your academic career. You should embrace the invigorating combination of complete anonymity and overexcitement fuelled by the encouragement of your loving Second and Third Year Contacts (STYCs) to behave as badly as possible. It doesn’t really matter whether you are the Fresher of the Year or not but you might as well throw yourself into it simply because there’s not that much else to do. Make the best of it, embrace the fact that you have been handed complete freedom and try not to do anything you’ll really, really regret in the morning.
You will expect your first day at University to be manic, slightly intimidating and entirely terrifying. It won’t be. You’ll be too busy to be scared. As soon as you arrive at your College, you’ll be shown to your room to dump your stuff. Then, if you want your parents to leave, get rid of them but don’t feel in any hurry to suddenly be on your own if you don’t want to. It’s not like high school – no one really cares if Mummy and Daddy are still around and you can always blame it on parental neediness anyway. After they leave, you may feel slightly anxious but this is quickly remedied by finding one of your flat mates and forcing yourself to have an awkward conversation about A-levels, where you live and what you like to do. Loiter as much as possible in the kitchen and prop your door open so you can meet anyone walking past. Offer to make tea but try and avoid creepiness. Overexcitement, on the other hand, is infectious and makes people wish they were as happy and secure as you are. Soon enough, your STYCs will arrive to ply you with alcohol and food before taking you to whatever hilarious college activity is planned.
People claim that Freshers Week is about events. It’s really not. You’ll get to know people far better over tea and cake in your kitchen or a treasure hunt in your college then you will at a university-wide silent disco. Still, they’ve got to be done and are often a lot of fun. Ideally, you’d buy tickets to all the events that look interesting to you and then pick and choose depending on where your flat mates are going. If funds are tight then don’t bother with the bigger ones where you’ll probably only talk to the people you know anyway. College events are cheaper as well.
People have different attitudes on freshers mistakes. Those who partake usually regret it while those that don’t wish they had. A word of advice – avoid sleeping with flat mates. It will end badly. If you badly want to be masochistic but don’t have the balls to really mess up your flat dynamics, there are always people on your course. Your awkward quota will overflow when you wave hello in lectures and have to explain to the girl sitting next to you exactly how you know each other. Still, this is one of those things that have to be experienced to learn so there’s not much more I can say.
One of the strangest things about University is that nothing much happens during the day and definitely nothing before 10am. However, if your college does offer day time events then embrace it. Trips to the pub and primary school-style sports days are great ways to make friends without the pressure that a night out can hold. Also, nerves and general anxiousness will mean you wake up early and it’s rather dull to be sitting around your room or loitering in the kitchen waiting for someone to talk to.
The societies you join will affect who you are at university and who your friends are. They are very important and, if you’re a person who likes doing things, your degree will not be enough to keep you entertained throughout the year. Flat mates are great but you will have more in common with those you meet at societies. Sign up for anything and everything that looks interesting. York is known for its student media and getting involved in the newspapers, radio or TV is a great way to gain experience and become part of something. For example, Nouse is the oldest society on campus and plays a substantial role within the university. We not only won the NUS Student Media of the Year Award but managed to achieve it while having some really rather infamous parties. Most societies hold elections at different points throughout the year and this is a great way to get involved with the committee. Nouse’s elections take place in late October and anyone is allowed to turn up. Don’t worry if everyone else seems to know what they’re doing because they probably don’t or definitely didn’t when they were a first year. If all else fails, use the CV motivator as an incentive to get up and try something new.
Societies, especially sport ones, are known for their fancy dress. If you are to survive at university, you must not mock it. Embrace it. Fancy dress is a substantial equaliser, mostly because it’s impossible to be intimidated by someone wearing a pink tutu, carrying a sword and covered in green glitter. Come prepared.
There will be many people who tell you that freshers week is about getting ridiculously drunk but it doesn’t have to be. The University of York Student Union (YUSU) put on numerous events that don’t involve alcohol and most of the Junior Common Room Committees (JCRCs) put on events like non-alcoholic movie and pizza nights. These are a lot of fun, usually free and can be a better place to meet people then massive drunken affairs. Suggest going to explore town or campus with your flat mates. You’ll be surprised how much you can find out about people while getting lost in Yorkshire. It’s really easy to get a few people together in your college quad to play a game of sport and other people usually join allowing you to make friends without unnecessary amounts of shaking hands or kissing cheeks.
(Photo: Chris Northwood)