24 September 2013 - 10:48 am

On Fresher’s Week, and the importance of being yourself…

Do I remember Fresher’s Week? I have to admit, large portions of it are a little hazy. I’m sure that’s because of my rapidly advancing age, not the amount of inebriating substances consumed, honest…

I think this was Fresher's Week... although I'm not quite sure

I think this was Fresher’s Week… although I’m not quite sure

However, I do remember this – Fresher’s Week is a weird time-warp. Friendships, passionate romances, bitter feuds – all can live, shine brightly and then fade away in the space of a week, processes that normally take months. You’ll make friends for life, but you’ll also sit in the filled bathtub fully clothed pouring your heart out about the boyfriend you left behind to someone you’ll never see again after the week is out. You might find a new hobby at the activities fair, but you’ll probably also do that ‘Give it a Go’ salsa lesson, pay your subs for the society and then never attend again. You’ll make your flatmates a great lasagne on the Wednesday night using all the kitchen stuff your parents lovingly selected for you, but by the end of the first month all that equipment will be under your bed because if people can’t treat your stuff nicely, they don’t deserve to be able to use it. You’ll stay up until 3am waiting for a text from someone you met at Leadmill on Monday night, but by Sunday you’ll be strolling hand in hand through Weston Park sharing an ice cream with Steve who you met at Pop Tarts.

The point being, Fresher’s Week is a time where everyone experiments (although keep those experiments clean and safe won’t you guys?). And that’s fine, honest! But the best advice I can give you to save heartache and strife further on is to be yourself.

I arrived at university determined to be the new Alison. So much so, I even decided to change my name, from now on I was going to be Ali. I was never cool or popular at school, I was the square, but now I was at uni, where everyone was a square, so maybe this was my chance to be the person I thought I could really be if I tried? I spent the summer before anxiously deciding which posters to take. The Incubus one? In. Queens of the Stone Age? In. Orlando Bloom? DEFINITELY OUT. Which clothes should I wear to be the coolest me I could possibly be? What CDs would people admire on my shelf? (Yes, yes, we had CDs back then). This new attitude didn’t just extend to what I had in my room, it went as far as how I acted around the people I met. Not wanting to come across as too eager, too desperate to make friends, I cultivated a weird, aloof, stand-offish attitude that I used with everyone I met in those first couple of days. Sit on your table for dinner? I think not, you can come and sit with ME.

Thankfully, by the end of the week, all this went out the window*. To her eternal credit, a girl on my corridor called Nancy saw through all the pretence, and made the effort to actually persist in getting to know me. And the rest, as they say is history. After just one night of getting woefully drunk and getting into more than our fair share of scrapes in Corp, and after one shared godawful hangover, she saw the real me – geeky, weird, sarcastic, with not such a cool taste in music as one might have thought from the posters in my room. And after she’s seen me at my best/worst, I decided it just wasn’t worth being someone I wasn’t, people could take me or leave me. All the ‘cool’ friends I’d met in those first couple of days gradually fell away, but we remained friends, and after numerous boyfriends, more than a couple of hair colours, a change in geographical proximity, two weddings and a baby, we’re still there, and our favourite film to watch together is still Titanic, showing you just how deeply uncool we both are.

Fresher’s week is the perfect opportunity to meet a wide variety of new people all in one place, try out a new hobby, experience all the different nightlife on offer, explore a new city and generally live life to the max. Don’t hide away from those opportunities. But always approach them as you, not the person you think you should be. It’s a waste of time, and you might just miss out things that are worth a lot more than a mental night in Corp. In fact, maybe that would be good advice for the whole of your uni experience. The next three or four years are going to be INSANE. Well, they will seem that way when you look back on them in 10 years, believe me. It’s worth not losing track of how you got where you did and what your goals are, and its worth surrounding yourself with people who will support you to achieve those goals and have fun with you along the way. That’s worth more than anything.


*Actually, not all of it went out of the window. The name stuck and I’m still Ali!

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  • About the author

    Ali Riley

    I am one of the three Enterprise Learning Development Officers here at USE, and I work directly with the Faculties of Science and Social Sciences. My background is actually in archaeology - random I know - but I have always had a bit of a side-interest in how people learn, and now this has led me to this very rewarding role! I'm still to be found in muddy holes at weekends though... I'll be blogging about Enterprise Education, including news, events, success stories, and my experiences of working with academics to offer a great learning experience to students.