By Rob Edwards
Freshers’ Week is a hectic jumble of first times, massive personal upheaval and self-discovery.
You’ve travelled possibly hundreds of miles away from home and been left in unfamiliar surroundings, filled with hundreds of other new people all in the same position, yet somehow all looking more confident and self-assured than you do.
Your parents might be around long enough to help you get settled, but they have to leave at some point, leaving you completely alone. You’ll have a few moments to yourself in your new room, trying to work out what the hell is happening.
You’ll never feel more lonely as you do in that moment.
The first night of my Freshers’ week was a gig at the Student Union bar by a band called Rizzle Kicks. To this day I’m unsure what a Rizzle Kick is, but the music was fine and everyone seemed to be having a decent enough time.
Now I don’t know about you but at the age of 18 and alone for the first time I was actually quite nervous about drinking. Yes, I’d been drunk before but always when I was just one phone call away from a grumpy dad who’d begrudgingly pick me up.
Here at the SU it was just me, 300 strangers and a pint of poorly chilled Carlsberg. I did what I could to make friends, even meeting two people I would eventually live with for a year. By the end of the night I’d drunk too much, had a cheeky snog with a girl in my halls, and retired to bed feeling really happy.
For all the crazy fun of Freshers’ week, there is another side that can be overlooked; how lonely many of the more insulated people can feel.
On the second night of uni I could hear crying coming from the room opposite mine. I knocked on the door and it was opened by a girl crying her eyes out.
We’ll call her Jane. Jane was homesick, pure and simple. She’d never been away from home and the idea of being away from her parents for more than an night was too much. I did what I could to reassure her, telling her not to pack in her studies and to give university a chance. To my eternal pride, Jane did and she flourished, very quickly finding a whole group of friends.
There is unfortunately another, more dangerous aspect of Freshers’ week.
From drug-taking to theft and a troubling amount of sexual assault, crime can often be found on a university campus.
If you’re not averse to sharing a joint with mates then that’s your business; if there is a bloke with three teeth offering you a needle I’d advise getting out quickly.
Avoid theft by simply being careful, locking doors and not flashing your money or phone about. Simple things which people forget after they’ve had a few.
Rape on campuses is a massive problem that all freshers need to understand and that goes for guys as well as girls.
First off, make sure your friends know who you’re with if you decide to sneak off alone with that hottie from the bar. Send them a full name and a picture if you can.
If he suggests his place, why not suggest yours instead? Try to control as much as you can and the minute you feel you are losing it for whatever reason, it could be time to make your excuses and start calling friends quick.
As for guys, all I’ll say is “NO MEANS NO”. If you’re flirting with a girl and suddenly she goes cold on you, accept it with a smile and give her some space.
Yes, it sucks that you didn’t get lucky but she can feel safer now and that’s more important. To my everlasting shame I know I’ve made women feel uncomfortable because I was too horny to read the signals.
Don’t be 20 year old Rob, be better than that.
Two years after graduating I remember walking through my old university town and a girl walked past me holding hands with a very handsome guy. It was Jane.
She’d survived, and thrived, at university making it all the way to her final year. She didn’t recognise me at all and that made me so incredibly happy.
That dark night almost three years ago was so far behind her that she didn’t even remember who it was who’d talked her down from leaving.
I hope that those about to go to university this year will have a fantastic time. University is where you grow into the person you will probably be for your whole life, so enjoy, and make the most of it.