The other day I bumped into a friend on campus and ended up eating lunch with him and a couple of other friends. Perhaps inevitably, our talk turned to Freshers’ Week – not, perhaps, tales of drunken debauchery but the question of whether any of us had actually enjoyed ours.
Later, I read this piece by a professor in a US university about move-in weekend and found myself nodding along. Marykmac tweeted about a discussion she’d had with colleagues where they’d all hated Freshers’ Week for different reasons.
Personally, I found Freshers’ Week weird. I found the general over-excitement about bar crawls and going out slightly inexplicable, I found the commercialisation at the Freshers’ Fair uncomfortable, I was dismayed by the misogyny and pretty alarmed by the inter-hall rivalries that were already springing up despite us moving in mere days ago. There was a doggedness about having “fun” – that if anyone paused for a moment in the pursuit of fun, they might realise that they weren’t having such a good time after all. Privately, I questioned whether I wanted to be at university at all, whether it was actually right for me or if I had made a terrible mistake.
Happily, Freshers’ Week is only one week. By the end of my third year I’d marched in demos, was involved in student radio and presented a weekly show, had DJed in a few clubs and at events, had done work experience at Xfm, was singing in a choir and had performed Handel’s Messiah and Mozart’s Mass in C Minor, and was living with people who’d rather go to a grubby rock club than student cheese nights. It wasn’t all great but it was much better than I hoped for during Freshers’ Week. I found that, despite my reservations about Freshers’ Week, I enjoyed playing hard as well as working hard.
So the moral of the story is that even if you don’t like Freshers’ Week and feel out of place and unhappy, hang in there. You don’t have to hang around with your hallmates if you don’t have anything in common with them. Find a few societies or clubs you find interesting – whether it’s rock climbing, flair bartending, archery or anime – and try them out. You can try things and if you don’t like it as much as you thought you might, you can join something else. You might discover a life-long passion or the best friends you’ll ever have. Then again, you might not – I met my best friend when we were postgraduates and it’s been a few years since I’ve driven a desk – but it can still be three or four years of exploring things you might not had a chance to otherwise.
Also, as a postgraduate tutor, I’d like to suggest engaging as much as possible in your seminars or tutorials. You’ll get a lot more out of it if you do and it’ll be a much more interesting seminar if people contribute. Sometimes I sneaked into friends’ lectures just to get an idea of other areas – Middle English literature, as one example. Your department might organise lectures from visiting speakers or have an annual open lecture. One of my favourite nerdy things to do was to just wander in P or PE and find books that looked interesting. These are three or four years where you can think deeply and read widely – seize the opportunity.