The Alternative Freshers’ Guide

Upon coming up to Oxford for the first time, the average student may find themself overwhelmed by a plethora of rules, be they archaic sartorial traditions which dictate Matriculation Day accoutrements, or the unspoken but understood rite of passage involving venerable booze and notorious ‘chunder’. Hence the urban myth which equates Fresher’s Week with discount-induced carnage, when doe-eyed enthusiasts liberated from the tyranny of sensible adulthood in the form of parents and housemasters embrace the beckoning of reckless adulthood by downing shots en masse.

While fresher Oxonians rarely go to the extent of complete anarchy, tales of bad apples going awry with their experimental behaviour are not unlikely to surface on the Tab, what with their especially gossip-attuned radar in the first week of term. Yet the truth remains that this conventional fresher’s week narrative may not be everyone’s cup of tea (or liquor), and our teetotal or just generally tea-inclined first-years who prefer to eschew the avalanche of dance-floor-gyratin’ club-lovin’ can rest assured that there is a way to survive these pre-essay-crises days of yore.

Indeed, rejecting the lure of Park End before pre-drinks when everyone is in sober mode may not make you ‘trendy’, but come dawn when the spell of hangover literally takes over, and I guarantee that you’ll be the envy of all those bleary-eyed souls who find themselves among floods of dubious liquid in nothing but their birthday suit. So live the alternative version of that legendary Fresher’s Week by following the tips offered below, and don’t forget to thank us when you find yourself more game than the rest to take on work once First Week reality hits home!

While the bulk varsity-night discounts touted by your resident entz reps may prove too much of a bargain to resist, the cost of pre-drinks alone will bankrupt you long before you step foot into any club. Adding up the trips galore to Tesco for booze, the accidental purchase at Camera for booze, and the mandatory detour to Hassan’s for kebab post-booze, this booze-oriented fest will soon leave the hapless fresher in the red in no time. Dealing with that retrospective, guilt-ridden rumination while nursing a whinging hangover the next morning is no one’s idea of fun. So save yourself the unnecessary pain of conscience-blaming by opting for a tamer form of enjoyment. Acquaint yourself with the idyllic locales nearby, be it the Christ Church meadows or the Port Meadows; tarry in the hipster headquarters of Cowley or discover the sylvan delight that is Headington Park. Perfect the dénouement of your excursion by grabbing a grilled cheese ciabatta from a Jericho café, and voila – there’s your perfect day. As an added tip, instead of getting laid with someone who you’ll probably (and most likely want, if not need to) forget about the next morning, actually start getting to know someone worth your while over a nice cup of coffee, a casual stroll or simply a night-in with a cup of hot cocoa and a good film. Whatever may come out of this interaction, take my word for it that starting off on a sober, platonic and congenial foot is always better than doing so when both parties are drunk, drunk and just downright drunk.

While there is no denying that kebab is an absolutely crucial part of the Oxonian diet (hence debunking the whole fruits-and-veggies-make-one-smart narrative), there is no harm in diversifying one’s culinary options. From steals to splurges, proper British to the exotic Orient, you’re literally spoilt for choice when it comes to epicurean pleasures in Oxford. Hop over to Koi for bubble milk tea; Al-Andalus to curb your continental cravings for Catalan tapas; or even the Lebanese Le Kesh on Cowley Road in the odd whim of culinary adventurousness. If none of that appeals, become a dorm-cooking aficionado by flinging yourself into the arms of grocery behemoths Tesco and Sainsbury’s.

But steady on, you say, are not cooking appliances contraband in most first-year rooms? Well unless you’re one of the lucky freshers who get kitchen access, then be prepared to transform into the Jamie Oliver of ‘Kettle Cookery’(aka the art of adhering to college rules and still be able to dodge hall food once in a while by making edible alternatives with your kettle). Explore the simple joys of making mac-‘n-cheese by boiling the perfect egg and pasta, mixing in a hearty dollop of cheddar afterwards; or receive your vegetarian friends in style by making a healthy Ratatouille- all with the help of but one heroic kettle. Surely all this consumable creativity must sound much more exciting than mundane orders of cheesy chips and doner kebab?

Thought as much – so to those who prefer a more subdued take on Fresher’s week, fret not, and start living the very first days of your university existence amongst the Hogwartian pillars, medieval gargoyles and glorious tableaus with our alternative guide in hand!