Freshers’ Week: Neither the best nor the worst of times

Freya Sanders 16 September 2015

Freshers' Week has a reputation for extremity. Social media perpetuates the myth that newly-christened freshers spend their time revelling and rebelling, free from responsibility and pressure, and look back at their first week as a gleeful introduction to adult life. This superlative impression is invariably offset by Freshers' Week horror stories: the guy who gets a gangrenous wound by falling in the Cam after a night out; the girl who gets locked out her room naked. We've all heard them, and some of we current students have our own tales of woe. But when I asked my fellow members of the TCS team to contribute to the article ‘What do you wish you’d known on results day?’ I found that most of them, like me, look back at Freshers' Week with a placid shrug of indifference.

In all likelihood, those of you matriculating in Michaelmas will have a Freshers' Week that's just kind of fine. It won't be the best week of your university career – that would be a bit tragic – but it won't be the worst. You might get a bit of a cold, but you probably won't end up on death's door with a severe case of the supposedly ubiquitous 'Freshers' Flu'; you might have a fun night out or two, but you'll have better ones once everyone's chilled out and calmed down.

It's obvious but it needs saying: no one's at their best when surrounded by strangers in a new city, with the overwhelming sense that everyone is judging them and the resulting pressure to be on tip top form. Remember, before you write off potential friends for seeming quiet, guarded or unfriendly: they may be none of those things; they might just be feeling exactly how you're feeling: a bit confused.

The best friendships that we make at university tend not to happen overnight – especially if that night involves one too many vodka shots and the reappearance of your dinner all over the streets of Cambridge. As a sage third year, I’m looking back at the friendship groups that formed intensely and immediately in my first term and realising that a lot of them have splintered – some of them quite spectacularly. Meanwhile, my first impressions of many have been proved utterly wrong, and several people who I now count among my favourite humans on the planet were only vague presences in my life this time last year. If there’s anything I’ve learned it’s that we find friends in the most unexpected of places.

So perhaps your priority in Freshers’ Week should be yourself, rather than everyone else. Look after yourself, because there’s a lot more to Freshers’ Week than partying: you’ve got to find your feet, probably start writing your first essay, and meet all the people who will read your essays. If you need early nights and a lot of personal space to deal with that, so be it.

Your Freshers’ Week probably won’t be amazing, but if it is, relish it. It’s unlikely to be awful, but if it is, you can pick yourself back up. Essentially: it’s all going to be fine. 

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Everyone has a different experience of settling in. As a welcome to all those matriculating in 2015, we’ll be publishing a series of columns that will provide insight into a diverse range of settling in stories, starting with that of our columns editor, Audrey Sebatindira. Click here to read more.

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For more information about getting involved with TCS, drop us a line at editor@tcs.cam.ac.uk, peruse our website, like our Facebook page, follow us on Twitter, or look out for us at the CUSU Freshers’ Fair: we’ll be manning our stall 10am-5pm both days, and we’re excited to meet you all.