Knowing all too well that I will never experience anything quite like Freshers’ Week in my life again, anywhere, ever, I was keen to make the most of the opportunities offered this September and throw myself right into the jam-packed timetable. Here are my thoughts on Freshers’ Week from a third-year perspective.
The annual RAG Fest, which kick-started events on Monday, reminded me acutely of life as a ‘Fresher.’ For me, it was simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying. I felt overwhelming bewilderment at being suddenly plunged into a new world in which I knew nobody, and was forced out of my shell into the crazy night life of Southampton.
So, this afternoon, as I sit overlooking the hustle and bustle on the concourse, I wonder whether similarly tumultuous emotions are raging underneath the cheery demeanours of the students.
I find myself wanting to announce to everybody there that this week, despite its uniqueness, is not the be all and end all; it is not, as many parents and siblings declared ‘the best week of your life.’ These first few crazy days are simply a glimpse of what should turn out to be the best years of your life. Leah Ferris, member of Southampton’s thriving ArtSoc committee, agreed:
These first few crazy days are simply a glimpse of what should turn out to be the best years of your life.
‘Freshers’ Week can feel like forced fun with false friends. What you don’t realise at the time is that you make your best friends along the way, through the people you made contact with during your first few days at University.’ So don’t panic if you were still too hungover for Twisted, or never found PicnicSoc at the Bunfight: the best is yet to come and it is never too late.
A further bout of nostalgia kicked in at the main event of the week: the Freshers’ Bunfight. You must ask yourself when walking past societies such as Real Ales and Cider, PokerSoc or Belly Dancing where the chance to be a part of something so diverse, and full of opportunity, will arise again. University is a place where you can redefine yourself and relish the freedom to be whoever you choose and do whatever you want. It may not seem like it, but here is the safest and most forgiving environment in which to experiment and step into new territory without having to worry about what could go wrong. Farley Pearce, President of the Health and Beauty Society, reminisces that she felt ‘empowered by the fact that, for the first time, you can pick and choose who your friends are and what you invest your time in. The responsibility to make decisions suddenly becomes all yours.’
For the last two Septembers, I made the conscious decision to avoid the Freshers’ Fayre at all costs, having been forewarned of the extensive queues and dense crowds but, this time round, I was teased into going along by my housemates. They were keen to make the most of the chance to grab the free loo roll, pizza and pens sure to be on offer inside! (We were not disappointed). Arriving over an hour before the doors opened, I witnessed the slowly lengthening line of students behind me, fanning themselves as a hot sun beat down. From the Fayre, not only did I gain a semester’s supply of biros, (one of which, kindly donated by Domino’s, I used to draft this article) I also gained admiration for the commitment of the first year students who patiently stood waiting; they really are doing justice to the week.
It would be easy for people to question Freshers’ Week. Parents, educators and dedicated students could argue that the timetable hardly compliments a hard-working ethos when all it endorses is fun and having a good time. However, it is the wealth of alternative opportunities introduced during Freshers’ Week that makes University the inspiring experience that thousands of graduates walk away with.
Having said that, I am learning that a balance between work and play is ideal, and something I am continually striving to achieve. Last year, all of my energy was thrown into running societies, editing newspapers and designing costumes; I was having ‘the time of my life’ but, admittedly, at the expense of my degree. Therefore, this time round, like many other finalists, I have altered my schedule, allowing more time to study for my degree. The various memories I have to look back upon leave no room for any regrets over what I did or did not do; they only give me hope that plenty more are waiting to be made before I leave Southampton in July.
So, after having soaked up ample amounts of fun and sun, signed up to the oddest societies I could find and having filled our kitchen table with Freshers’ Fayre souvenirs, the week regrettably comes to an end. The nostalgia I will always feel when looking upon my own Freshers’ term was fondly rekindled this week and I’ll never forget the experience. To finish up with a bang and hit the Cube would be the perfect end to the week but, too rightly, the event is sold out. I think it is time to accept my place as a third year and let the Freshers have their first taste of the fun that awaits them.