Tim O’Brien: Week 1

In his first column, TIM O’BRIEN kicks things off by offering the freshers a bit of advice…on advice.

| UPDATED advice Cambridge column columnist Freshers Life the tab third years tim o'brien titanic university week 1

Hello freshers, I’m Tim.

I appreciate you’ve been a bit inundated with ‘freshers advice’ recently.  Let me tell you something – most of it is complete rubbish. Yes, talk to people to make friends. Offer others tea. Find a balance between work and play. Blah blah blah.

Let’s be frank. You’re going to make a lot of mistakes. Like spending £150 on a debating society that survives on people mistaking it for their students’ union. Or pairing up with the first person who jumps in your bed, only to break up 2 months after you leave the Bubble, filled with regret about not playing the field more while your body was young and supple. Or pretending to enjoy Cindies… ‘ironically’.

You won’t realise these were mistakes until many years later, but that’s fine. Part of your development. To be honest, there’s only one real way of avoiding them while you’re here. And as a third year, I feel qualified to share this advice.

Don’t listen to the third years. Yes, the ones who talk to you like you’re two years old, brimming with a false enthusiasm for anything and everything. Don’t listen to them. I’m not talking about practical advice necessarily. To their credit, they can tell you where the pharmacy is when you catch chlamydia off a curry-stained blue, or tell you how to organise a supervision (you email a supervisor). But if you’re looking for life advice or guidance – for help navigating the existential nightmare that is your first year of University – don’t bother.

Why? Well it’s not because they were once just as lost and insecure as you are (they were). It’s because they are now much more lost and insecure than you will ever be as a fresher. Yes, you’re worried you won’t fit in to the University. They are worried they won’t fit into life. This terrifying prospect of an imminent life to live makes them cling to the comfort of University right up until the last moment. Remember that bit in Titanic where the ship turns vertical? That’s them. Clinging on for dear life as they plummet down into the murky freezing abyss that is real life.


The fact of the matter is you leave this place a lot more confused than when you started. I’m more confused after two years of living here than I ever was at the beginning. Mainly as a result of being unable to work out when people are being ironic. But also due to the fact that University has simply not given me all the answers.

Sadly, such reliance on the authority of third years is what keeps Cindies in business. The third years say it’s the place to go, so it must be the place to go. Two years earlier, they were just as desperate for guidance as you and they were told the same. A cycle continually repeats itself and no point does anyone turn around and say “wait a second, why do we spend half our time here awkwardly celebrating TV advert length snippets of shit music in an overcrowded dirty bingo-hall fuelled by sugary vodka?”.

Just stop. Sadly, it’s a truth as universal as the inevitability of death – Cindies is an awful place. No Tab article / JCR rep / freshers handbook / promoter saying otherwise should ever be listened to. They made the mistake of listening to those preceding them – and look at them now, bent over a filthy Cambridge urinal, coughing up a mix of college catering and VK and being patted on the back uselessly by the friend who pressured them into getting in that state in the first place.

We’re all freshers really. Freshers at life. And we will be until we find some answers. Let me promise you one thing – no-one here has them. Especially not the third years.