Image Credit: Albert kok
Somewhat unbelievably, I actually didn’t enjoy Freshers’ Week all that much. The week, which is actually five days, seemed like it was central to the university experience. I wasn’t the guy sitting two tables away from me in hall, who’d supposedly been out every night in freshers’ week. I thought to myself “How is anyone supposed to match up to that?”. The guy in question was only referred to by his surname, not something we’d done at my school. Maybe it was just chat, but he already seemed to be some sort of legend.
So it’s easy to feel like you’ve missed out somehow. Even now, going into 3rd year, I can’t help but feel while writing this that maybe if I’d been around more in Freshers’ Week, I’d know more people. If I were writing an essay about it all, I’d say something like ‘Freshers’ Week is a social construct’ and hope to cruise to a 2.1. I’m not saying it’s a con exactly, but I felt at the time you either had to blow a load of money in one week, or you’d feel like you’d missed out on something.
Freshers’ Week also introduced the concept of ‘sharking’ to me. Now, I can’t watch Jaws without being reminded of a student in the year above with a famed penchant for ‘sharking’ – Oxford has quite simply ruined me. I just assumed that the older years would help us get used to Oxford, I had no idea such ulterior motives existed back then. I knew where Bridge was before I knew where the college library was: the timetable for Freshers’ Week was all wrong!
Perhaps it just wasn’t long enough. Why should it only be a week-long booze cruise? Maybe I’d have been able to fit in, if given more time. Part of me wonders if the solution is to extend freshers’ week to the whole of first term, with Prelims taken 3 months later to compensate. That would at least allow for those who take a while to adjust. I wouldn’t have felt like I was missing out if Freshers’ Week lasted 8 weeks. The sense of peril engendered by the words “Down it fresher!”, was concerning at the time; with a couple of months, maybe I’d have got into the swing of things.
But I’m sure you’ve realized what’s been penned here should be taken with a large dose of skepticism. I didn’t drink or go out in Freshers’ Week, and at one level the idea that those who don’t play the game shouldn’t comment on the rules isn’t totally lost on me. I did eventually catch up though, but why did I feel like I needed to in the first place?
There was indeed a re-appraisal of Freshers’ Week when I realised the best experiences of being at university didn’t have to be confined to a single week – but it’s easy to see why the fresher version of myself felt that they were. It’s different for everyone of course, but I felt at the time like I was destined to juggling playing catch-up with feelings of having missed out. This isn’t necessarily the case, and there’s always time to establish those friendships and have those experiences that make the university experience, as my second-year self would soon discover. So just remember, if those first five days don’t go perfectly, you’ve got at least another three years stuck here to make it right.