Why fresher’s week is so overrated
Don’t worry if this week isn’t the best of your life
We all know it- that infamous week of partying, drinking, and freedom. A chance to reinvent yourself, meet new people and try new things. It’s something students talk about and hype up for so many reasons. But why do so many of us find it so difficult?
It’s obviously a very different experience this year- social distancing and Covid necessitate very different plans. Forget nights out in clubs, having older men leer at you and your friends, or vomming on the N25 back to campus. Forget Falmer Bar cheesy chips at 11 pm after having been drinking since 2 pm. But I experienced a ‘real’, pre-Covid freshers, and even I can say it’s overrated.
I expected this incredible experience where I would talk to everyone, everyone would become my friend, I’d become this huge social butterfly. But there’s so many things holding it back from being that amazing week that’s supposed to mark a new chapter of your independent living. Here’s a rundown of why fresher’s week isn’t all it’s cracked up to be (and why it gets so much better).
Whether they admit it or not, (almost) everyone feels homesick. Even now, going into my second year at Sussex, the homesickness is real. Be it your parents, siblings, or, more often than not, your pets, everyone feels that pang from time to time. During fresher’s, despite meeting so many people, I felt so alone. I just wanted to be back in my cosy bed, with my mum in the next room, ready to give me a cuddle.
It’s important to remember that, whether they show it or not, most people are going through the same thing: finding yourself in a new place with new people and copious amounts of alcohol is bound to be a little bit (or extremely) daunting, and the temptation to spend every day crying on facetime to your dog is real. But, as a fresher, everyone is in the same boat, and soon enough that weird ‘am I on a school trip’ feeling will begin to wear off.
When trying to escape the crippling anxiety and social exhaustion that fresher’s week threatens for so many students, keeping yourself busy is the name of the game. But in a week with no lectures, seminars, or labs, there’s only so many trips into Brighton you can take, only so much you can drink, only so much you can walk around campus. There’s always going to be downtime where you feel awful. And as someone who isn’t a huge fan of clubbing, I always knew it’d be harder to ‘fit in’ and keep going.
It might feel easier to reluctantly go out and socialise, rather than sitting in your room alone and trying to work up the courage to go into the kitchen, but, although fresher’s is a time for stepping out of your comfort zone, it’s equally vital to understand your own boundaries in order to have the best possible time, even if that means combatting social pressures and taking some time out for yourself.
Meeting new people
With so many freshers chucked together in a strange new place, with the only real common denominator being age and place of learning, you’re bound to meet all kinds of people, some of whom you don’t necessarily get on with or relate to. However, despite the immense pressure to make friends immediately, very few people hit the ground running when it comes to finding their crowd. In no other setting are we expected to find a BFF within the space of a week, so don’t let the desperation to find your people overwhelm you.
Many newbies find themselves (often unintentionally) putting on some sort of false persona in order to find new mates – something which can be even more alienating – but it’s often the case that people’s true colours come out within a matter of weeks, so don’t feel like you have to make close ties within those first few days; let the real friendships happen organically.
It gets (so much) better
Like so many other freshers (whether they cared to admit it or not), I found that my fresher’s experience fell short of my expectations, and even began to wonder whether I was cut out for this whole uni thing. But this all changed when term started.
Suddenly, I was in this routine of lectures, labs, library, seminars, and some amazing societies – I didn’t have time to feel FOMO about not going clubbing, my flatmates and I all settled in to our routines of film nights and eating copious amounts of Bisto gravy on all our meals. I could speak to people on my course – make amazing friends and doing what I’d come all this way to do – learn my fascinating course that I adore. A game of Psych (creds to my old flatmate for the idea) led to our group bonding more than we could imagine.
Despite being back in halls this year, living with new people, the memories and friends made in first term remain, far surpassing my less-than-brilliant first week at university. I managed to find an incredible support system of friends and professionals to make sure I was okay, and I always knew where to go when I felt like trash.
Freshers week is all about image- all about those snaps, those people you meet fleetingly and never speak to again. It’s so easy to forget that underneath the neon paint, intoxication and Huji filters, everyone is taking the first few steps of a nerve-wracking and unpredictable adventure.
Term time is when the real bonds come- rallying your coursemates to get to a 9am, writing assignments at 2am the night before they’re due, crying with your friends because the guy you met on Tinder turned out to be a bit of a dick. It’s sitting on Stanmer Hill, laughing or crying with your new best friend for no actual reason. It’s squeezing in flat drinks around part time jobs, showing up to lectures still slightly drunk from the night before. It’s all of these crazy adventures you’d never imagine. It’s so much more than fresher’s week.
It takes time to settle, to get into a routine, to feel secure and happy in a new space. Remember to reach out and speak to people when you’re struggling – but if you are, remember that this too, shall pass. That said, for times when everything feels too overwhelming, please take advantage of the following organisations:
Samaritans: 116 123 (UK) www.samaritans.org
Students Against Depression: www.studentsagainstdepression.org
Student Minds: www.studentminds.org
University of Sussex Student Life Centre: www.sussex.ac.uk/studentlifecentre