Expectations vs Reality of being a Lancaster 2020 Fresher

It could be worse… but it could also be better

This was never going to be a vintage year for freshers. Through the mire of a national lockdown, universities with budgets tighter than ever and an examination system that made the most mild mannered of Year 13s want to roll up their envelope of bitterly disappointing results and slap Gavin Williamson over the head with them, a typically fun first year didn’t ever really look on the cards. Still, that didn’t matter. With a steely determination, you packed up your possessions, forked over £9250 and decided that you were going to make the most of it (as every older relative reminded you to do about five times a day).

From the moment that I arrived at Lancaster though, something seemed very off and it has continued to be more of a confusing experience than trying to read about quantum physics while performing a handstand.

Lancaster isn’t quite what we Freshers’ expected it to be. And since it’s getting very claustrophobic in the tiny room, memes are the only way to truly connect over this slight change in expectations vs reality.

Campus is pretty quiet

On the Lancaster open day that I attended (which feels about 10 years ago), Alexandra Square seemed like a bustling haven of knowledge, camaraderie and optimism. There were numerous shops and enough students to give a misanthropic daily mail reader a heart attack. It seemed like a place that everybody would want to be and I very much shared that sentiment.

Flash forward a year and it looked emptier than my bank balance. Now obviously in light of this year, I didn’t expect it to be quite as thriving but I had no idea it would be this bare either. Of course I might just be out of the loop, with the underpass being the ideal place to hang out these days.

Doing laundry is painful


This one stings. I knew at some point in my recently adult life that I would have to partake in the painful process of laundry. However the washing machines on sight make that practice even more tearful. Obligatory app that you have to use aside, you’ll wonder by the end whether clean clothes are even worth it or whether you should preserve your sanity instead.

Clearly I’m an idiot because I fell under the misapprehension that the cycle would finish when it said it would. So down I wondered to the launderette, 38 minutes later, dunce cap on my head, to see that it was still going to be another half an hour before my clothes would be released. Recovering from my shock, I decided to wait the extra thirty minutes, only for a full hour to pass and the machine still pleaded that it would be another four minutes. Why did you hurt me in this way, Washing Machine 19?

I had prepared to become an alcohol master

When you’re as devoid of personality as me, one of the easiest solutions is simply developing a number of quirks. One of these that I thought would be viable would be becoming an expert mixologist with an encyclopaedic knowledge of cocktails. I’d impress flatmates by fixing them up with everything from martinis to Moscow mules. Regrettably that has not been the case, as it is far easier and cheaper to buy lager and drink it mixer-free.

and a world class chef…

I’ve never had a flare for the culinary arts but for some reason I thought I’d transform into a proficient chef once I got into uni. On the left is a meal that my flatmate prepared with both grace and guile. On the right is a jar of peanut butter that I considered having as my lunch. I’ll leave you to decide what looks more appealing.

Lancaster University, the haven for complex discussions

In my unique little brain I believed that universities were centers of academia; a place for discussion of complex ideas and starting a discourse about the material that you were studying. It wasn’t probable that I’d be partaking in any of this but regardless it was comforting to have that option.

This aspect of uni life is now a shadow of its former self. Everybody has a new mistress now and her name is Microsoft Teams. We’ve all stumbled through this software, tentatively positing ideas muttered into the microphone. It more often than not serves a reminder that you’re paying almost five figures to sit indoors watching YouTube, which you could likely do for free.

2020, the year of saving money

Knowing that there wouldn’t be as much on at university this year, I desperately scrambled to find a silver lining, and concluded that saving money would be easier than ever. Of course, true to form I was laughably off the mark. Living by several takeaways including the ever-inescapable Sultans has drained my bank balance and my desire to ever cook for myself. Why have independence when you could have a mixed sizzler?

A new beginning? Time to reinvent my style

University is a chance to reinvent yourself with a new style to prove everybody at home that you were cool after all (take that, Grandma). Here I am looking like the least menacing Peaky Blinder in history. This vague notion of developing as a person soon dissipated for me though which means it’s hoodies and shorts for me, all day everyday.

I was ready to become Mrs Hinch

This might have been another adventure in freshers naivety but the logic seemed sound to me that if people simply washed their utensils as soon as they were finished, we could all live happy lives decluttered by crockery.

Alas, our draining board has descended into disrepair with enough glass to replace all the windows in the Burj Khalifa. This is one hardship that I cannot blame on the pandemic – as much as I’d like to.

It takes clothes a long time to dry, doesn’t it?

Not to disrupt the status quo, I’m going to moan a bit more. I had no idea that it took the same amount of time it took Rome to burn down for me to dry my jeans on an airer. The irony is not lost on me that I am literally airing my dirty laundry in public, but a downside of having to stay in your room all the time is constantly catching glimpses of your bright green socks that maliciously refuse to dry themselves.

You will never again make one single cup of tea

The other great national pandemic in Britain is an alleged addiction to tea. A downside of making it in a flat with others is being compelled to ask them if they want one too. Very often, they will take you up on this offer which you will have to fulfil. Many will do this out of a sense of altruism; others (like me), will do it because they don’t want their flatmates to know just yet that they’re an anti-social, ill-tempered curmudgeon.

Ready to do something I enjoy, like, join a sports team!

Doing something you enjoy? Don’t be silly. Meeting others in person? Never heard of her. Societies were never going to be the same this year but the lack of communication from a number of them has seriously twisted my melon. Most seem to be saying nothing and quietly hoping that they aren’t bothered by pesky freshers.

My housemates and I will share many meals together

Shared group meals are a chance to make life-long trends and try delicacies from all over the world, from Hartlepool to Windsor – in theory. In practice, you’ll be lucky to catch one of your flatmates eating at the same time as you. Of course this could be remedied by arranging a rota or buying shared ingredients but who needs solutions when you can just rant?

I will spend Freshers’ Week consistently drunk

Obviously large scale piss-ups were never on the cards, yet I still believed that gatherings in earnest might be feasible. The coronavirus saw this and decided that I’d prefer endless games of Uno, which have at times been more heated than a rave.

Uni is the perfect time to get into shape

I probably won’t get through this one with a straight face. I might have momentarily fooled myself into thinking that uni was the place where I’d get into shape, but it’s not as if you can do bicep curls while asleep so I’ll move on.

and the perfect time to make many new friends…

In a university with 13,000 students, the foolish version of myself from one month ago thought it entirely possible that making friends would not be a struggle. Then of course, restrictions arrive and venturing out to Spar becomes a luxury. Therefore, in a low tech version of Whatsapp, sending crude post-it note based writing has become a primary method of speaking with other people via my window. I have been lucky enough to have some great flatmates but acquaintances from beyond Flat 7 seems like a distant notion right now.

People shouldn’t lose hope though. It may be decidedly naff at the moment but we are all in the same boat and will get through it. It’s just unfortunate that the boat happens to be the HMS Titanic.

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