Freshers. The first two weeks of university life where everyone is a stranger. In an unfamiliar place. All searching for their place.
Many students look forward to Freshers Fortnight. The idea of getting drunk during the first two weeks of the university is appealing to some. They meet at the Freshers’ Events held in clubs with themes like School Disco or Halls Walls.
Beams of colours flash between the eyes. Red. Green. Orange. Purple. Blue. All in time to the music that blared from the speakers. Students push through crowds to get to the bar and then spend the rest of the night, dancing with a point in their hand, spilling most of it on the floor so that the next person who walks there have to prise their shoe away. Some take a spot in the corner and get a little bit too friendly for a first night and for the public eye.
Freshers Fortnight is full of clubs. Clubs. And clubs. It’s disappointing for someone like me who doesn’t drink. Most People don’t seem to mind this. They came to get drunk and that is precisely what they will do.
Issues for people who don’t drink
Then you get the few odd-bods like myself who don’t mind others drinking but don’t want to drink themselves. I’d make myself to the bar. Ask for an orange juice and rarely get heard. Thank god for the notes app. Then I would find a quiet table somewhere, hoping others who didn’t drink or were at least a little sober would come and sit by me. On the way to the table, my feet would stick to the floor as I trod in puddles of sticky, dried-up beer.
That doesn’t mean I didn’t want to socialise, I really really did but I wanted to socialise with sober people. Not people who had no idea what they were saying or wouldn’t remember what they did when they woke up the next morning. I don’t mind people drinking, but it is hard to know who someone is if they are drunk.
I mean, I knew there would be alcohol and many drunk people, but I thought there may be a good share of sober students too. It was awkward being surrounded by drunk people when you were sober. I had people approach me, encourage me to drink but I just didn’t want to and I still don’t.
Unfortunately, This is what most freshers’ events are like. My aim and the aim of most of the students were different. I actually attended a meeting once, where people who did not drink, expressed views that they were being unintentionally excluded.
Most events I went to, I went with people who were in my halls and did make one friend at freshers but I’ll be honest, I find Freshers’ disappointing. 80% of the events are about getting absolutely drunk. Yes, that means there are 20% that do not have to involve alcohol, but they’re not really suitable for meeting people in and few and far between.
There’s a quiz night, which is fun and is probably the only time you can meet new people on a non-alcoholic night. Then there is freshers’ fair, full of freebies but this is run during the day. Comedian night is watching a live comedian act, so it is hard to talk and meet people. Intu Lockdown was also fun. Discounted prices for students at the local shopping centre but again hard to meet people. The other non-alcoholic day is Family Fun Day where you invite your family back to the uni which is fun and great.
All the other events are not suitable if you want to have a good time without pouring down an alcoholic drink.
I don’t think the university does it on purpose, but both years, I felt excluded from freshers’ because most the events were alcohol-heavy. It’s like being an outcast before you even start. This is an issue that also runs into some societies and SU events after freshers too.
In my first year, I joined Dumbledore’s Army, went to a social and the drinks tailored to the theme, like Liquid Luck and Draught of Living Death were alcoholic. They didn’t have any mocktails for the theme so I had to ask the bar to make me a mocktail and put it in the cauldron-themed cup.
While the bar staff were happy to do that, it didn’t have the same effect as it did not have a name like the cocktails did. So, the fellow members of the society all drank “Felix Felicis” and “Drought of Living Death”. I know it’s just a name and it sounds silly but when you’re the only one who does not have a potion name attached to their drink—it’s hard to feel like part of the group.
I did buy another freshers ticket last year but came down with a heavy case of freshers flu before any of the events happened so was bedridden for the two weeks (at least in the evenings anyway) but the general feeling I got from people talking about freshers was that it was worse than my first year.
I’m grateful for the events the students do have at freshers that aren’t based around getting drunk but they are very few and far between and don’t really involve socialising with people. Maybe if they added events that happened at the same time as the clubs but were not focused on drinking and getting drunk, freshers would be better.
This year I’m not buying any freshers tickets. There’s no point.
I’m hoping to hang around more with my classmates and friends, make our own events and be around people I trust who won’t force me to drink even if they are (please don’t let me get freshers flu again, please).
Update: I haven’t got freshers flu and my flatmate and I get along well, staying in and watching TV together, it is great.
This one club venue seems to be a popular choice down in Derby. So if you are thinking of coming to Derby, want to socialise and have mobility issues, it is worth noting.
Revolution has no disabled access, my friend and I, both disabled, went to revolution because the society Cakes and Cocktails (mocktails) were holding a social event. I hadn’t paid for my membership yet, wanting to try it out first but my friend did. She’s in a wheelchair and we couldn’t find any way for her to access the building. I went in to find someone.
I asked the bar staff where Cake and Cocktails were, they were upstairs. The staircase narrow with a handrail on one side. I talked to the society, explained the situation, that my friend cannot access the building and I cannot manage stairs well, I didn’t sign up but I hoped their next social would be accessible for my friend. The next social was in Revolution.
The university was hot on the society’s tale, giving them warning after warning. Halfway through the second semester, the society had been closed down because of it not providing access to all students. The university and student union is good at fighting for people to have access to all parts of the uni so the student can get the most out of their experience.
So please, if you run a society this year, don’t hold it in Revolution (what an ironically poor-fitting name).
Side-note to new students that drive, the road leading to Revolution has a bus lane that sneaks up on you and is a £30 fine.
What is your experience of Freshers Week or Freshers Fortnight?