Why Cambridge needs a proper Freshers’ Week
No like, a proper one
This is not just another article lamenting Cambridge's night life (I actually rate it). I'm arguing that a proper Freshers' Week could help to improve student wellbeing.
So, it's week minus one of my second year at Cambridge. After a lazy three months spent sporadically meeting up with school friends, I am back in the University Library and, instead of even looking at my reading list, I'm writing a Tab article.
As with many second and third years, I've got the next week and a bit to settle in and kind of remember how to write an essay. Even if I didn't have this time to get it together, I'd know what a Cambridge term was likely to throw at me. But that wasn't the case this time last year.
I arrived on the afternoon of October 1st, and after a "Freshers' Week" that essentially consisted of half a pub crawl and a DoS meeting, I was given my first essay by the afternoon of the 4th. I was presented with a reading list which featured more history books than I had previously read in my entire life and was told I had a week.
Unsure whether this was the essay deadline or my life expectancy, I was asked if I had any questions. Feeling the need to fill the silence, I asked whether it mattered what font I used. It didn't. But what I really want to ask was "how the hell am I supposed to write this essay whilst going out most nights, taking part in extracurriculars, getting to know the city and trying to make friends?"
Of course, this sort of weekly routine can and does become habitual for many: we learn to keep up with what matters and shed what doesn't. But coming as a fresher with high expectations of the University, and more problematically of oneself, it's quite hard to realise this at first.
Rather than being thrown into every aspect of university life, freshers could do with a whole week before any work is set. This way proper time could be dedicated to establishing some sort of social support network. Instead, as it stands freshers are made to feel simultaneously guilty for going out and for not going out.
The brevity of Cambridge's eight week term makes it all the more important that freshers have some sort of time to get to know each other, or at least to start the process.
I remember the rush to the housing ballot as we all sought to live with people we barely knew. We spend so much time locked up in our work that maybe a little bit of time to talk to people in a context other than walking to the library or at pre-drinks wouldn't go amiss.
All things considered, the lack of a dedicated Freshers' Week links back to the University's general lack of consideration for student welfare. A system of eight-week terms and at least an essay a week hasn't really changed in the last century. There's no need for this hangover from the "good old days" when it comes to providing for students' social needs.
Having a proper Freshers' Week (like every other university in the country) wouldn't get in the way of learning – in the long run it would only benefit everyone's wellbeing.