Fuck Freshers’ Flu

Get up, come on, get down with the sickness

death flu Freshers freshers flu illness international students Lemsip paracetamol sickness sneezing supervision partner

It’s midway through Week Three and I’ve only just about recovered from the dreaded “freshers’ flu”.

Coming down with the flu is quite possibly one of the most stereotypically British things ever, along with our penchant for cups of tea and Fawlty Towers. It also nicely goes hand in hand with our deeply ingrained need to complain, providing the perfect excuse for a rant, or even a Tab article #meta.

However, the typical bout of flu is meant to last but a few days at most. At best, it can be used as a legitimate excuse for an essay extension. Worst case scenario, you’re forced to miss a few lectures and begrudgingly catch up later. We all get sick at some point in term from one too many all-nighters or a dodgy Gardie’s kebab, but what is it about this particular strand that makes it quite so debilitating, long-lasting and completely impervious to any attempts to make yourself better?


The kind of degree derailing damage that Freshers’ Flu leaves in its wake

Next time you’re in a lecture, take your eyes off your phone under the desk (we all do it, don’t lie to yourself) and look around you. I guarantee that there will be at least one person coughing, sneezing and spluttering over the already hard to understand lecturer with their foreign accent, making things even more difficult to follow.

Look for the tell-tale signs: the sneaky cough sweet, the half empty packet of paracetamol, the used tissues forming a nice nest of disease around half-finished sentences and doodles of your fit supervisor. That, my friends, is someone who has been infected and you should do well to keep away… except you can’t.

Try as you might, it is almost impossible to escape the plague of Freshers’ Flu, especially at Cambridge when you are in such close proximity to the other “infected”. Every day you sit next to them in the buttery, share the same air with them in lecture theatres and make out with them at Cindies. No matter how hard you try, you can never escape.


Any one of these seemingly healthy faces could be infected (spoiler alert: it’s probably me)

So, what is the cause of this strange phenomenon? Well, according to the Wikipedia page (because yes, Freshers’ Flu has its own Wikipedia page ladies and gents), “the most likely cause is the convergence of large numbers of people arriving from all over the world, many of whom carry pathogens to which they are immune, but others have not had a chance to acquire the necessary immunity”.

The Farage and Trump supporters among you (the minority, I sincerely hope) therefore might argue that Freshers’ Flu is the result of Cambridge attracting so many international students to come and study here and we’d do well to rid ourselves of them and make our university great again. But lol, no.

If there is but one positive side to Freshers’ Flu, it is that it is universally unrelenting and there is a kind of solidarity in knowing that it affects positively everybody. No one can escape its wrath. “Freshers’ Flu” is a bit of a misnomer as it affects freshers, second-years and finalists alike. None of us are immune to the headaches, phlegm and fatigue. We are united in our suffering.

So, try as you might to avoid it, you’re ill. What can you possibly do to get better? You could try to stay in and get rest and drink plenty of fluids, sure, but in a Cambridge term where essay deadlines rain down like pigeon shit from the off, you’re fucked in that department. Also, no amount of Lemsip can relieve you of your symptoms (trust me, I’ve tried). Your only option is to forgo any social responsibility and drink away your problems. What better medicine than alcohol?


The solution to all of life’s problems

You could also turn your affliction into a biological weapon of mass destruction and take your peers down with you. Especially this early in term, your relationship with your supervision partner isn’t that sacred. “Accidentally” cough in their direction and hope that it sticks so that they also become afflicted, giving you a chance to level the playing field as you’ll both be far too sick to answer your supervisor’s probing questions on 20th century Spanish literature with any informed or original point-of-view.

Or, unfortunately, you might just have to wait it out. Freshers’ Flu, just like losing your Wednesday Cindies virginity or having your academic self-worth destroyed by your supervisor’s damning comments are all an inevitable part of being quarantined in the Cambridge bubble. It’s all part of the experience, am I right?

But still, fuck freshers’ flu.