Diets, Dishes and Drunken Debacles: the Lifestyle of Freshers


Two years ago, I was ready to move to university and I thought I knew what to expect. The wild parties, the cooking experiments and the randomly generated housemates. There were some things, however, for which even three trips to IKEA couldn’t prepare me.

Image by Bryony Wellburn

A survey carried out in 2011 by OpinionPoll found that a large proportion of Freshers are hopelessly unprepared for university life. A quarter admitted to never having budgeted for themselves, 20% had never washed their own clothes and slightly fewer (13%) had never ironed before. What’s more, 10% of new students had never even attempted washing up. At least first year guarantees distance from that beloved dishwasher.

So what can this year’s fledglings expect post-nest? Does naïve inexperience really equal disaster or can this new environment bring out previously untapped potential?

The answer, of course, is a bit of both. The bad news is that Freshers really can and do exist in conditions which science previously thought could never support human life. A study carried out by Leeds Metropolitan University found that floor washing was so infrequent in some student halls that the mop itself became a bacteria-infested weapon. When it came round to the annual spring clean, students were in fact lathering their kitchen floor with the home of more than 8 million bacteria per 100cm2. Who would have thought that those too lazy to even participate in the sole clean of the year may have been adopting the most prudent approach?

However, beyond exposure to a wealth of new micro-organisms, some dubious fancy dress choices and a lethal dirty pint or two, Freshers are likely to mainly see the positives of their introductory week. Of those students who took part in our survey, the majority look back fondly on the experience, describing it as ‘completely overwhelming’, ‘ridiculous amounts of fun’ and ‘a fantastic start to university life’.  Almost 70% cited meeting new people as the best aspect of their Freshers’ Week, while exactly a quarter of respondents chose the partying as their favourite.

Image by Bryony Wellburn

While the majority felt that the positives outweighed any niggling concerns, it would be wrong to suggest that university isn’t a big adjustment. Living away from home and managing quickly dwindling finances can be a strain; 2/3 of respondents selected these as the worst aspects of the week. Pressures such as these can make Freshers’ Week seem, as one respondent put it, anticlimactic. Perhaps a good analogy is that Freshers’ Week is like a wedding, and the university experience as a whole is like a marriage. Everyone loves a good wedding ceremony, but it is what follows that is most important.

The NUS found that 74% of students enjoy their overall experience. Freshers’ Week is the start of something unforgettable. Here are a few Freshers’ week stories our readers shared:

The very very first night I went out with my flat we were at Kinki (the old nightlife event back in the day!) when a particularly creepy guy latched onto my female flatmate (who was happily involved with a long-term boyfriend) and wouldn’t leave her alone – so my male flatmate, who we had all only known for about 7 hours, went over to dance with her and awkwardly pretended to be her other half until the sleazy guy left. You could say our close friendships grew from that moment!

(MA English Literary studies)

I went out for my birthday and my two friends decided to hug whilst both walking and inebriated – it ended with broken ribs and a broken finger.

(BA History, Second year)

The boys all wore kinky stockings for the back to school party!

(BA History and Archaeology, Third Year)

I lost my virginity on the very first night of Uni. When the girl I was with left to go back to her shared room in Glen Eyre, I forgot to tell her that to get out of my corridor in Halls you needed to press a button on the wall. She didn’t see the button, panicked when she couldn’t get out, and ran out of the fire escape. The fire alarm went off, and everybody had to assemble outside. I was completely naked bar a dressing gown, and this was how I met most of the people in my block, including 2 of my current housemates.

(BA Film and English, Third Year)

There was an international student living on our corridor and we tried to invite him to every event to include him. Eventually, we managed to get him out one night, but within 20mins of being out, he went missing so we looked for him all over the place. The next day he returned to move everything out of his room and into private accommodation. To this day, we do not know what happened to him that night! In the end, he got to live with people he wanted and we got an awesome new roommate, but it’s still a mystery…

(BA English, Second Year)

The first Wednesday, Monte had a ‘Rubix Cube’ night in the Boiler House where we had to enter the venue with clothes differently coloured like a Rubix cube, then swap clothes with people throughout the night until we could be all one colour… so by 3am, I was in some random flat in B Block wearing all orange, playing card games with people I’d never met before that evening! It summed up Freshers’ Week for me – you have to put yourself out there, but if you do, people will always be there with you.

(Alumnus, Philosophy and Maths)


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