Your College Aunts Week Two: More Freshers and Refreshers
You’ve got 99 problems and finding ways to socialise definitely is one
How’s your week two been then? Ours? Well Xanthe still has no work and spends her evenings having dinner with her college wife and going for cathartic late night walks. Leila on the other hand has essays up to her eyeballs, had some stressful trips to Zara and started refreshing her A-level French. Not a lot to write home about, so instead we wrote this column.
Q1: Is it alright if you’re not part of a squad by the end of Freshers’ Week?
Yes, of course. A lot of people find friends on their course and at a completely different college through extracurriculars. I think it’s much more painful long term to force yourself into a friendship group that actually isn’t for you than to just be unattached for a while. Uni friends can be friends for life and so I think it is worth being discerning and waiting for the right people to come along. However, the right people won’t come along out of anywhere. If you’ve struggled to find friends in your accommodation or college, you should make the effort to pursue some friendships via sports and societies.
As we get older, the idea of a ‘friendship group’ begins to fall apart more and more. The best friendship groups are those that have solid one-on-one friendships within them. So try less to think about ‘building a squad’ and more about filling your life with the right sort of people – those that make you happy, that encourage your passions and make you feel less alone. Once you have some solid people in your life like that, often a ‘group’ or social sphere of good friends follow.
Don’t overthink it. It is perfectly fine to not have it all figured out by the end of week two. More often than not, those ‘solid squads’ you see at the beginning of Michaelmas have fallen away by Lent.
Q2: My friend constantly seems to get themselves into ridiculous and often somewhat dangerous situations when drunk. I’m sick of having to mother and worry about them. How do I be a good friend while also not having their poor choices affect me?
I’ve been there, and yes this is incredibly tough. My advice varies a little depending on if you are a fresher or not. If you are, give them more leeway (they might not have had much experience with alcohol before uni), but equally, you are not their parent or a paramedic. Part of growing up and becoming an adult is about taking on personal responsibility and learning your limits. If someone is in a bad way, of course, the considerate and kind thing to do is to take care of them and get them home safe. However, when this behaviour is extensive and repeated, you can start to enable someone, and that is not fair to you or them.
Drinking culture at uni is prevalent and I am not going to bash someone for it. I like a red wine, or a gin or whatever. But ultimately your friend is an adult. They should not get drunk out of their mind with the expectation to be taken care of. I suggest talking about this to them when they are sober and be open and vulnerable with your feelings on the situation. Explain the negative effect it has on you. If they say you’re being unreasonable I honestly think they are a poor friend – ultimately they are the unreasonable one in this situation and lack the awareness to see how this affects their friends.
They need to learn to handle themselves. Because one day you won’t be there.
Q3: What do I do if it’s after midnight and the people upstairs are engaging in very loud wrestling matches? How do I get them to quieten down if they aren’t picking up calls and I can’t go upstairs to tell them to shut up in person due to COVID rules?
I feel your pain, I have also heard some 2am boxing matches. Portering someone for engaging in night-time cuddles is arguably harsh, and they will hate you for it (look, you would if you could, so don’t be a jealous nelly).
That said, we all need our eight hours. Ear plugs are an option. Failing that, try a Lime Street clinic pamphlet under the door. If this is a close friend, banging on the door/roof/floor and having banter might diffuse the awkwardness really.
Okay in all seriousness, if you feel too awkward or annoyed to make light of the situation, or god forbid you don’t even know the person beyond their name, message them the next day, and say you heard them showering/watching TV at 2am and it was quite loud. Pretend you have no idea it’s boxing and just hope they clock what has happened and are so embarrassed that they stop (or moderate the auditory aspect of the boxing).
Q4: Last year me and my college wife were incredibly close, now we seem to be drifting but I don’t want us to. I don’t want to seem needy but I’m worried I’m losing a friend.
This is one of those situations where, ultimately, you have to let go of your pride. It’s easy for people to drift, especially within the context of a pandemic that has fractured our social worlds and so you cannot place all the responsibility on your college wife to reach out. You have to remember: wanting to reconnect with someone you were close with does not make you needy. Needing friendship and human connection are perfectly normal things and the narrative that this is somehow a bad thing is pretty toxic.
We have to take responsibility for our own desires and in this case, this means you need to make an active effort to reconnect with your college wife. Ask her for a coffee or a FaceTime call and then act according to the response that you receive… you’d be surprised at how often the other person has also wanted to reach out but has simply been too scared. That’s why everyone goes on about the importance of communication in any form of relationship. If the response from your college wife isn’t positive that’s definitely going to hurt, but people drift all the time: it’s a natural part of human relationships. Allow yourself to feel upset and mourn the loss of a close friendship, but know that you will make new friendships and connections and that some friendships have different expiry dates to others.
It’s important to let go of the prospect of continuing the friendship past a certain point if you have received a negative response, as friendship, like any other form of relationship, is built on reciprocity. Wanting to be friends with someone who no longer wants to be friends with you is often a reflection of a lack of self-worth. If you ever find yourself in a situation where you are craving the attention or affection of someone who has made it explicitly clear they don’t want to spend time with you, or has mistreated you, I want you to remind yourself of this phrase: “I only want what wants me.” As cliche or insignificant as that may seem, it really speaks volumes. Taking this approach to your friendships and relationships will ultimately make you happier as you will start to form better, healthier connections, and you will stop putting yourself in situations where you are being mistreated.
Q5: My long-distance chirpse just confessed his undying love for me. What now?
Funny you should ask this question as Your College Aunts discussed long-distance relationships in depth on last week’s podcast. Some general advice from me would be: think about how you feel. Just because someone is in love with you doesn’t mean you owe them anything. Long-distance is a pretty big commitment, so don’t get caught up in something for the sake of it- be logical.
Q6: Fresher here. One of my male friends got drunk on a night out and made some really inappropriate homophobic comments about bisexual women. I’ve not come out to him or any of my new friendship group yet, and I don’t see now how I will ever feel safe to do so. I’ve found myself locked into quite a secure friendship group very quickly and I guess that’s lucky, but now I’m worried that I’m going to find out I don’t actually like any of the people in it! I make new friends very quickly, but it’s so hard to maintain them outside of my direct accommodation block because of corona. Any advice?
I think before I even delve into the specifics of the question that it’s really important to note that biphobia, whilst unfortunately still very prevalent, is completely unacceptable. Ideally, you or someone around you would have called out this friend for his comments, but that is often easier said than done. I’d also like to point you to question one to remind you that these might not be your people and that there remain multiple ways to make new friendships even within the context of Covid. If you are currently in a group that condones homophobia, biphobia etc I would argue that this perhaps isn’t the best group of people to be around. However, I do understand the realities of being a fresher stuck in close quarters with these people and that it may ultimately make your living situation easier if you maintain some kind of amicable relations. Here, it’s probably important to say that just because you feel like you’ve ‘locked’ yourself into this friendship, in reality, you actually haven’t and you should not feel guilty if you decide to explore your other friendships and distance yourself slightly.
I don’t think I have the right to tell you exactly what to do with regard to coming out and navigating your own sexuality, as ultimately, only you know what you are comfortable with. I do think it’s important to say that if you feel uncomfortable at the prospect of coming out to this group of people, then you simply don’t have to. You’ve known them for two weeks – you don’t actually owe them anything. Getting in touch with your JCR’s LGBT officer with your worries could be a great option for you, especially if you’re currently feeling unsafe – it’s their job to be there in situations like that, and they might be able to offer some useful information and more nuanced advice with regard to your situation.
When it comes to maintaining new friendships during corona it’s definitely an instance of pushing yourself to do things that during ‘normal’ times would seem strange or unappealing. Whether that be actively messaging people, or setting up Zoom calls or quizzes, I’m sure the people outside of your household who you’ve made friends with would greatly appreciate this. Most freshers are probably feeling the exact same way as you and sometimes someone just has to make the first move and you’ll realise everyone has been waiting for someone to.
Well, that’s all from us this week…
If you haven’t already listened to our podcast, what are you doing?
Want more Freshers and Refreshers content? Take a look at last week’s column.