Freshers doesn’t define the uni experience


Michael Athey gives his take on why if Freshers' Week isn't quite what you hoped for, you needn't worry.

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Image by Nouse

By Michael Athey

At initial glance this article might stick out like a sore thumb in the midst of this Freshers’ Supplement. With all these fantastic Freshers’ Week articles hopefully getting you excited for your next few years at York, this particular article might seem contradictory and overly pessimistic. What do you mean I might not enjoy Freshers’ Week? I realise I run the risk of sounding like the crazy ancient mariner trying to ruin the wedding guest’s day, so I’ll cut to the chase. I don’t want pessimism to be the main takeaway of this article, for there is every reason – as this Fresher’s Supplement has hopefully shown – you will have a cracking first week at university. However, what I hope to reassure you with this article is that if you find Freshers to be not what you expected, it overall doesn’t define your experience at York.

To play devil’s advocate, why might you find Freshers’ Week not the most enjoyable? Well firstly, whilst most colleges do offer some alternative activities I’d be lying if I said clubbing, and specifically drinking, is not an inevitable part of Freshers’ Week. For some, a night of getting sloshed on the town is the perfect way to get to know people. For others, this prospect is nothing less than daunting. Additionally, this is likely the first time you are truly living independently away from home. Therefore, missing all the joys and comforts of home living means homesickness can be a common issue. This can be particularly tough when you’re surrounded by brand new people you don’t know, not the reassuring support network of friends you’ve already got. This weird dichotomy of being completely surrounded, and yet oddly alone, makes Freshers a strange experience and frankly exhausting. With so many activities organised, and new people to try and get to know, taking time to focus on yourself and chill out a bit can get lost in the fray, leaving you drained.

If these scenarios echo any of the worries you have going into Freshers or the experiences you have coming out of Freshers, in true Dad’s Army fashion - don’t panic. Not only will you not be alone in having these feelings, but these are all perfectly reasonable reactions to have to Freshers’ Week. Just because you see some people enjoying themselves doesn’t mean your dissatisfaction is any less legitimate.

Speaking from my own experience, I can relate that Freshers failed to blow me away. I didn’t hate Freshers, but I certainly didn’t love it. I especially found the emphasis on clubbing a troublesome worry for myself. In fact, I didn’t attend a single club night during Freshers’ Week. If I was under the impression that the chaos of Freshers’ Week was going to be indicative of my entire first year or even my entire uni experience I’d definitely be questioning the sanity of my decision to take upon £27,000 of tuition debt.

Thankfully, that’s all it was, an impression. Absolutely by no means definitive. Your second week alone will be drastically different, never mind the rest of your three years here. It is only after Freshers’ Week that the abundant opportunities of uni truly present themselves. Your studying will start to begin, which will allow you to meet people on your course. Sports and societies also all start to take off, meaning you can start meeting people with common interests to yours. It’s through attending these activities that I began to relax more at uni and start making some of my closest friends. It should therefore come as no surprise that many older students like myself are a bit ambivalent towards Freshers’ Week. It’s memories simply aren’t as good as what followed.

In truth, uni is still throwing surprises at me. I’m still making friends from all sorts of places. Plus, despite my reluctance to go clubbing in Freshers, surprisingly I am now open to a night out with the right group of people. I also couldn’t imagine when I was in Freshers week that Nouse would become one of my favourite societies and that in two years I’d be comment editor at Nouse. But through one way or another that’s where I am and I am grateful for it. However, all of these things didn’t fall into place in one singular week. It may be cliché, but it is inherently true, that uni is a marathon not a sprint. On that note, I hope you have a fantastic Freshers’ Week. If for whatever reason you don’t though, rest assured it won’t define your uni experience and more exciting opportunities await around the corner.