Freshers Week: A Basic Survival Guide

Like many students in Southampton, I spent my first two years in uni blind drunk, or working at a bar in between lectures. So, when I was asked to write some […]


Like many students in Southampton, I spent my first two years in uni blind drunk, or working at a bar in between lectures.

So, when I was asked to write some life advice for my baby cousin to read on his 18th birthday, I decided the only thing I can speak with authority on as a 20 year old clod was navigating Southampton’s nightlife.

Which is a little depressing to think about, really, as I don’t want to be the creepy guy in the family that wrote a guide to getting a one year old pissed. Instead, I’ve written a guide for you innocent freshers, to help you make the most of the manic few weeks you’ve got in store.

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This is your life now

Get out there and explore!

A night out in Southampton is, according to limited insight from friends of mine living elsewhere, a bit special. It’s far cheaper than most other university cities, everyone’s in a perennially good mood, and the weather isn’t too bad either. It’s like the Kavos of Britain. But that doesn’t mean it can’t get stale. Yes, you’ve got Switch and Sobar, Oceana and Jesters, and for the first few months it’s tempting to stick with the first few names you hear bandied about by the second and third years; but Trip Advisor lists 64 clubs, pubs and bars within just three miles of the city centre, and most of these spots offer different nights on different days of the week. It would take months to sample everything the city has to offer, even if you headed out every night you got. So if you’re ready to gouge your ears out after hearing ‘Cotton Eyed Joe’ for the forty eighth time in Oceana’s cheese room, try something new: The Edge, Cafe Parfait, Orange Rooms, Junk, Buddha – there’s plenty to choose from.

This was the first thing that popped up on Getty Images when I typed in 'Student Freshers'. Make of that what you will. ©Getty Images

This was the first thing that popped up on Getty Images when I typed in ‘Student Freshers’. Make of that what you will. © Getty Images

Get used to the Freshers Mantra.

“What’s yer name? Where yer from? What’s yer course?” Some really sparkling conversationalists will even tinker with the formula, adding “What’s yer A-Levels?” By the end of Freshers Week, you will be reciting this rubbish in your sleep.

There’s plenty to do if you look off the beaten track. 

If you’re not into the usual House and the like, there are plenty of alternative nights out. Talking Heads and the Joiners Arms have played host to some massive bands over the years, while District is a perpetually wandering alternative and metal night. Big events like the themed club nights are held almost every other week, and attract some fantastic acts. Festivals are taking off in Southampton too, with Soundclash and Common People being held within a month of each other.

If you’re the type of person who doesn’t enjoy clubbing or drinking, there are loads of other options. Check out the Playzone in Portsmouth (and I’m not being facetious here – they run adult nights, and playing in ball pits will always be fun). The Alexandra Beer Emporium has a host of vintage game consoles and Orange Rooms run regular film screenings – if not quite as cheap as the Student Union.

Getting out there and exploring applies to people too.

It’s very tempting to stick to the first few friends you make, especially if you don’t know anyone in the uni when you arrive. But you’ll be missing out if you just stick to your new mate George. There are around 16,000 undergrads alone at the University of Southampton; another 8,000 postgrads, and a whole load more at Solent. In this mass of people, there will be a best friend, a worst enemy, a future spouse, and a whole bunch of mates. You will meet some incredible, varied, interesting people, who will in turn introduce you to more incredible people. Don’t be afraid to make the first move; just go and start talking. The worst that can happen is that they brush you off, and with 5,399 fellow Freshers looking to make friends, the odds are in your favour. Just don’t try and bang every friend you make in the first week.

The author, sticking with his mate George.

Me, sticking with my mate George. I am not wearing fake tan. Honestly.

Pick your mates wisely.

When you first move into halls, you’ll be lumped in with a bunch of strangers. This can go exceedingly well; I still live with the majority of my original housemates. Equally, it might not, and you might have to strike out and make your own friends (not a bad thing). You want the guy who can help carry you up Bevois Hill when you pass out with your head wedged under a bench. You want the girl who gets you water while your head slowly slides down the cool enamel of the toilet. You don’t want the girl who insists that if you smoke enough Nutella you’ll see the back of your own head.

Make sure you’ve got enough for the taxi, or know your way back well.

Goes without saying, really. Southampton is safe enough and there are always a few police cars on patrol at all times, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. After all, 99.9% of people are fine every year, you just don’t want to be that one in a thousand. Taxis are ideal, and there will be ranks of them outside every major club until long after closing time. SUSU run a scheme with several companies; you leave your ID as a deposit, and pay the taxi company back in the morning.

Also the author, proving that not everyone in VIP is a VIP.

Proving that not everyone in VIP is a VIP.

You will puke at some point.

This is how you learn your limits, and it happens to the best of us. Just try and make it to the toilet in time, don’t be afraid of the tactical, and keep going no matter what anyone says.

You'll love it. You'll hate it. Sometimes both on the same night.

The Palace of Dreams. You’ll love it. You’ll hate it. Sometimes both on the same night.

Most importantly – Don’t let it get out of hand.

Yes, you only need 40% to pass first year.  Yes, Jesters’ After-Exams party takes place the day before your exams finish. Yes, Sobar are selling 1p pints of Guinness the night before your group project presentation. Some of your friends will doubtless place drinking before their academic work, and suffer for it. If you’re not convinced you could visualise a time you’d rather finish an essay than get plastered: you’re paying an extra nine grand if you really screw up. And no one wants that.

So there you go, some basic tips and pointers to getting the most out of all of Southampton’s nightlife. It’s a great city that has lots to offer to students, and more than a few features that really do put it above many other uni towns.

You can read Part Two of our freshers survival guide here.