Let’s face it, Freshers’ week is overrated.
In all honesty, most of us finish the week with the flu rather than with friends.
Year after year, we throw freshers in at the deep end and attack them with a bunch of obstacles, be it tackling the navigation of the rickety streets of Cambridge, a hideously long reading list or an abundance of different students packed in each college.
A bit like going to the dentist, we’re all glad we went through with it but we’d never go back there again.
Firstly, there’s the fact that the Cambridge freshers’ week only really lasts five days before term actually starts, rather than the luxurious 7 days or more that most other university students are treated to. Consequently, these five days are a tidal wave of social, subject related and college events that is all a bit too overwhelming to process.
Then there’s the excruciating pain of constantly making small talk. Moreover, it is the same conversation repeated and no one remembers anything you tell them anyway. It got to the point that I was so bored of telling people my name, what I was studying and which college I was at, that I proceeded to make it up. Engineer at Corpus? Sure.
Even worse than the tedious discussions is the organised fun. I understand that publically humiliating team-building games are a logical way to get strangers to integrate with one another and become friends. Realistically, the whole experience is incredibly awkward for everyone, especially if it involves a presentation to everyone at the end or the need to contribute an interesting fact about yourself.
Bizarrely, although everyone is forced to socialise with so many people, you’ll still spend a vast amount of time in Freshers’ week just sitting around in your room feeling a bit lost in those moments when you aren’t being carted off to a pub crawl, welcome drinks with your supervisors or a dull fire safety talk. For instance, I recall that I spent a good hour folding every item of clothing including my underwear. This was not what I anticipated my “wild” freshers’ experience would consist of.
If, however, you were a brave fresher who ventured further out, it probably didn’t take long for you to then get lost in college. There are so many random corridors or strangely positioned doors that it would be the best game of hide and seek ever. Unfortunately, if you try and style out a navigational error in a Cambridge college, you will probably be shouted at by a porter for stepping on the grass.
Granted, the overwhelming awkwardness of freshers’ week will make you realise that the only release is in drinking excessive quantities of alcohol. There are major drawbacks to this, such as the evidently horrendous string of hangovers and the momentous dent that will appear in your bank account.
More importantly, Cambridge freshers will probably reach the peak of their drunkenness in Cindies, Life or Fez. But probably Cindies. Even if you enjoy Cindies, no one can deny that it is genuinely awful in almost every way for being so rammed that you sweat in places you never have before and because they actually play The Lion King. Plus, when you take a moment to consider everything, it feels really peculiar being incredibly drunk with people you could scarcely call friends. Despite this, we all end up lying on the street outside the Van of Life, sitting on our new pal’s lap, eating cheesy chips and telling them we love them already.
Perhaps it’s actually more overrated to say that freshers’ week is overrated because it’s obvious that the reality of such a frantic week is going to be a bit underwhelming. This is why it’s fun for second and third years because they know where everything is, have nothing so new to deal with and can giggle at the helpless freshers.
However, the problem is that there is so much fresher pressure. Everyone arrives feeling obliged to have “the best weeks of their lives”. With this comes pressure to conform to the prescribed ideas of what a “normal” fresher should be doing, the people they should or shouldn’t meet and how many sexual conquests they should aim for in a week.
Truthfully, freshers’ week is not the best week of your life, but it’s not the worst. It’s your period to acclimatise to Cambridge life, so it’s better to avoid letting the pressure get to you and accept that it will be a tiring and predominantly mediocre week filled with moments of joy to cherish and those of deep embarassment.
At least there will always be free pizza at the freshers’ fair.