Ben Collins Week 1: We’re all trying really hard to impress

OUR FRESHER COLUMNIST talks fitting in, boring conversations everyone has in freshers’ week and wavey garms.


Before I left for Cambridge, I found myself deliberating what to wear for my first day.

So unshakeable was my desire to impress new potential friends and appear effortlessly cool that I completely failed to notice the irony behind actually exerting more effort than I’ve ever done in my entire life.

I ended up settling on my waviest vintage Adidas jumper (I am so sik rite). Take the piss all you want, but this was a resounding success; three people even used it as the basis of starting a conversation with me.

Let’s just forget the one guy who pointed out that he’d seen two people out in the same jumper that night already. Whoops.

Wavey garm on the left

This need to impress lasted longer than those first few hours.

‘Shit’, I thought to myself, having finished off a really awkward conversation with an English Literature fresher, ‘I came off way too keen about Beat Generation writers; I’d better tone it down for next time’.

I strode off, assured that I’ll get it right next time. I developed a game-plan: just play it cool – be aloof. In the next conversation I pulled it off with ease – I was so chilled and effortless. Nice one, Ben.

‘Hang on’, I realise. ‘Maybe I came across as really cold and uninterested. Fuck, that’s two people who will never speak to me again’.

Can’t be the only one with this poster

For most of us freshers, it’s been at least seven years since we’ve been in an environment in which we’ve had to talk to people with whom we have no connections – no mutual friends to name-drop, no childhood haunts from the same home-town. We are really, really out of practice – and it shows.

It was easier back in Year Seven anyway – chances are you probably knew somebody you could latch onto; until you realised that they were a prick and found your own friends. In any case, you were probably too busy being full of swag with your oversized blazer and massive back-pack to care.

Bak 2 skl

Back then, you were blissfully unaware of the need to socially establish yourself (just roll with it: it’s my excuse for not knowing any girls until year 9).

Fast-forward to my first day at Cambridge, and I’d had some pretty mundane conversations. With every new person comes the same thing; I can feel everyone involved grappling for any common connections.

But it’s no good, and my go-to topics of conversation at home – mutual friends – are bled dry by the fact that they’re from some shitty place somewhere in the North (or maybe it’s the Midlands, who knows) and obviously have nobody in common.

The only thing that really unites you is your ability to get A*s, but let’s be honest, nobody wants to be that sik guy who talks about their A-levels.

You resort to having the same, regurgitated back-and-forth interrogations about their subject, their college, their home-town and their bewilderment at living in a building that resembles a castle. It’s shit, it’s mundane and everyone involved is tired of the inauthenticity that underlies all these conversations.
A day later, and the tide has changed. It seems the cheap alcohol available at the college bar last night seems to have facilitated some more genuine conversations, as has our hazy memories of a packed Life dance-floor. I mean, if a dubstep remix of Pirates of Caribbean can’t get people engaged in interesting conversations, I don’t know what can.