Fresher’s week, on your terms

Fresher’s week, on your terms

By Annie Graham,

When I got my A-level results a year ago, I was delighted. All the hard work and stress, as we were promised throughout our A Level studies, had paid off, and I was going to my first choice of university to focus on the one thing I had been whole-heartedly interested in for much of my school life: English literature. Perfect.

Despite the excitement of the whole three years at university ahead of me, and being able to devote my studies to the subject I had always loved, I have to admit that I soon began to feel the lingering dread of the infamous ‘Fresher’s week’. Especially as I’m more introvert than extrovert.

Clubbing just isn’t my scene. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for a drink and a laugh down the pub with friends, but the unavoidable stories you hear of night upon night of drunken fancy dress did not appeal to me in the slightest. I was keen to meet a new bunch of like-minded people, but not in this way. So my search began - where could I find a bunch of fun people who were okay with not getting under-the-table drunk every Wednesday? Soon enough, I found a small society at the University of Reading that provided an ‘alternative’ initial week of activities (including a meal, tour of the town, and a cinema trip.) Thanks to the society, and some new found friends, ‘Fresher’s week’ as we know it did not really happen for me, and actually, this was fine!

Many undoubtedly would have thought me boring, or assumed I was feeling uncomfortable not doing the same as the majority, but I was perfectly happy with it. I was being a Fresher my way; I had the option of doing the things that better suited me, but also made the most of a couple of quiet nights in the flat to have some time to myself. I craved this having never properly been away from home before leaving for university. The constant, smiley “hello, I’m Annie” that the first week demanded was exhausting!

I have always been confident enough to stick to my guns and opt in to things I feel comfortable with, and out of those I’m not, but the first week of university really did test this.  Despite the fact I did feel a bit alone at times during these first few days, (frequently feeling as though I was the only one not ‘out on the lash’) as my first year at Reading went on, I began to meet more and more people who had felt similarly, and had also been unsettled by a binge fest during Freshers. It turned out that many of the people I spoke to after Fresher’s Week had either been too shy to admit it, or, more commonly, it simply hadn’t come up in conversation. Funnily enough, eventually having these sorts of discussions and moans and groans I eventually found a group of girls that I am soon to call housemates - people on the same page as I! There’s a tendency at university to assume, but my first year reminded me not to. While, yes, I was in the minority, I was not as alone as I had feared, and being myself seemed to be paying off.

Undoubtedly the conventional Fresher’s week set-up satisfies the majority of students, and this is totally fine by me. I do, however, feel passionately that there should always be other options clearly open to those for whom this commonly thirsted for (literally!) clubbing routine is not right.

I recently read a book by Susan Cain called Quiet. The tagline reads: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. This is what Fresher’s week felt like to me: a lively, bustling, exciting, and at times overwhelming, new mini world where it seemed nobody could stop talking! I expected this, and am now thoroughly enjoying my English course with my great new friends, but I think it’s important to know that Fresher’s week can be, and should be experienced absolutely on your terms – whatever this may mean.