How to do Freshers’ Week without being a dickhead
Freshers' Week: the heaviest week of a student's life.
Heavy as in the weight of your suitcase. Heavy as in the heart your parents leave with. Heavy as in the staggering amount of alcohol you will consume over the course of seven days. Freshers' Week is a hard time; rather, it's a time to go hard. If you're going to make it through this thing alive, you're going to need some advice.
Some things are taken as read: obviously you should bring clothes, yes it is a good idea to remember people's names, and no you shouldn't drink until you vomit out of your ears. This guide is a bit more realistic, a bit more practical and a bit more honest than that. You're smart enough to know right from wrong, smart from dumb, good idea from really fucking bad idea, so let's not beat around the bush.
Photo: Peter Burgess
This is it. You've finally flown the nest (until six weeks later when you come home to get your mum to do your laundry and raid the fridge). No more living under the iron thumb of your parents - you're your own man now. First things first, you've got to get all of your crap from your dad's Volvo into your new palace of freedom.
There are two schools of thought when it comes to moving into halls. School of Thought A: move everything in, find homes for all your clothes, bits of tech, nicknacks and objets d'art, making everything look nice and presentable so that your parents feel confident they're leaving a semi-functioning adult to fend for himself. School of Thought B: dump your shit, say goodbye to your folks, then sniff out the nearest party.
Both are valid options with their own inherent pros and cons, but there is one absolute must when moving into halls: offering to help other people lug their stuff in. Not only is it the decent thing to do, but it's a prime opportunity for scoring brownie points. People remember the guy who helped them drag their massive suitcase up the stairs, and those people may go on to become your best mates, future relationships, or just people who will do you a solid because you did them a solid.
Photo: Aberdeen Student Radio
There's a good chance that you're not going to know a single person at your new uni, so you're going to have to press a fair amount of flesh in the early days if you want to have anything resembling a good time over the next three years. Your halls are your first port of call: you're gonna be living with these people for the next year, so get in with them as soon as possible.
The best thing about university is that you have a chance to completely reinvent yourself, so if you're the kind of person that doesn't go up to strangers to say hello, you can change that. Confidence is entirely artificial: if you just pretend that you're confident, the other person can't tell the difference, so start knocking round the doors in your halls, introducing yourself and saying hello, exchanging numbers and adding on Facebook. Do this and you are guaranteed to be invited to at least three parties that same night.
As was promised in your prospectus, you will meet a wide range of people from every walk of life, unless you're going to Oxbridge, in which case you're going to meet people who are descended from the same line of aristocracy as you. Most of the people you meet will be sound, a few of them will be dickheads and one or two will turn up on the news in a few year's time after going on a rampage in a shopping centre, but you have to give everyone a chance. Cliques are for high school, university is a broad church, so give that future rampager a hug and a can of Strongbow. Then back away...
Photo: Arts SU
Unless you're of another persuasion, Freshers' Week is largely going to consist of you going out on the piss. Seven days of late nights, early mornings, cheap drinks and slightly fuzzy memories, Freshers' Week is, in a word, messy. Some people go hard every night and worry about paying the price later, others like to dip their toes in the water and take it easier, but the main thing is to make sure you get involved. You only get one Freshers' Week as a true fresher, so why hide in your room the whole time?
If someone on your floor invites you out, say yes. If there's a banging party happening next door, don't reach for the earplugs, get in there instead. You've got the rest of the year to have an early night or Skype your girlfriend at a different uni who you'll definitely still be with by the time you graduate, so gel up your hair, iron some creases in your jeans and get ready to party like it's 2007 and people still listen to Klaxons.
As for the kind of nights out you'll have, it almost doesn't matter. Whether you're an indie kid, a drum and bass fiend, a heavy metal mosher, a techno head - whatever you are, leave your preferences at the door. This week isn't about finding the niche club that caters to your interests, it's about getting out there with the masses and finding your people amongst them. Who knows? You might find that you actually love happy hardcore. Someone has to.
You might think you've had some pretty heavy sessions in your (fairly short) time, but nothing can quite prepare you for the alcoholic onslaught that is university. Shots, pints, cocktails, mixers, VKs, slippery nipples, bottles, cans, buckets, fishbowls, beer bongs, pitchers - it's all coming at you, and your liver is bracing itself for impact.
Obviously there's no obligation to drink at uni and plenty of people have a great time without booze, but for most students, university = Drinkfest 2016. There's not much point giving advice on drinking, because once you're three pints and four 50p shots deep, you've already forgotten everything we've said. But if you've never done heavy drinking before and want some sagely wisdom, here it is.
Always line your stomach with something carby like pizza or pasta. Pre-drinks will save you so much money and you'll have some of your funniest times during them. Sticking to the same drink all night will help reduce the likelihood of you vomming and ease your hangover the next day. If you don't want to drink more but want to keep up appearances, order a coke and if anyone asks, it's got vodka in it. There's no shame in asking for water. If you think they've had enough, don't let them get another.
And if anyone asks if you want a shot of sambuca, the answer is no. Always no.
Photo: Brandon Botwin
University is the place where most people have their first real exposure to drugs. You might have had a puff on a joint behind the bike sheds after school a few times, but at uni you will come into contact with drugs of greater strength and in greater quantities. Chances are you already have an idea of whether drugs are really your thing, and we're not here to preach to you about the dangers of them right now, but the frank advice is this: if you're going to do drugs, don't be reckless.
If you're a newbie, don't start by banging down three pills and giving yourself a heart attack. Use your common sense: start off small, with people you trust and who will answer your questions, don't mix your drugs and drink lots of water. If you do all of the above, there's no reason why you shouldn't have a great time, as long as you're smart about it.
Equally, if you feel like you're being pressured into taking something you don't want to, stick to your guns. Anyone actively pressuring someone into taking drugs is a Fuck and we don't associate ourselves with Fucks. In fact, you should make it your business to tell this Fuck exactly what kind of a Fuck they are, and that they can fuck off back to Fucklington with all the other Fucks.
Photo: Richard Smith
The third in the debauched trifecta of university, sex is going to be on the forefront of most freshers' thoughts as they roll into town. You've got your own space, your own bed and you can invite anyone you want to share it with you. For a supposed place of learning, a lot of people don't use their head when it comes to sex at uni, but instead of the usual advice reminding you to use a condom, our advice is to always carry two condoms on you at all times. Not one, two.
Two condoms will have you covered for every conceivable situation. If you had sex the night before and it's looks like round two could be on for the morning, you're covered. If the unthinkable happens and the condom breaks, you're covered. If you and a mate get lucky on the same night but he/she wasn't as prepared as you, you've got them covered. If you're an incredibly dull shag, you can blow up the second condom and make balloon animals instead. C o v e r e d.
As for the actual mechanics of getting laid, there's really no rhyme or reason to it. If you don't smell terrible, have made an effort with your appearance and can look people in the eye while you're talking to them, there's no reason why it couldn't happen for you. Even the biggest twats on earth manage to have sex, so don't sweat it.
Photo: Andy Wright
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times: Dickens probably wasn't talking about hanging out of his arse, but if he was, he hit the nail on the head. There are three stages of dealing with a hangover: prevention, treatment and just dealing with it. The easiest way to prevent a hangover is to not drink as much, but that's like saying the easiest way to prevent bleeding is to get stabbed less. Hydration is the key. When you get in, have at least a pint of water before crashing out - this will help cushion the blow.
When you wake up with the devil fucking the back of your head, you don't want to be dragging your lifeless corpse of a body down to the kitchen for a drink. Before you go out, make sure you've got your hangover station set up next to your bed. Bottles of water, Berocca, paracetamol, some kind of isotonic sports drink, non-perishable hangover food - get everything you need to survive the next few hours of suffering, which is where the third stage comes in.
You're gonna have to struggle through a fair few hangovers over the next few years/rest of your life. You don't always have the luxury of laying in bed until it goes away; sometimes you just have to get up and deal with it, which makes the hangover station even more of a necessity. Maybe not this week, maybe not next week, but soon.
Probably the week after next, actually.
In between all the sleeping, socialising, drinking, sleeping, going out and sleeping, you'll need to find some time to eat. To reflect your busy schedule, what you eat may err on the side of convenience rather than nutrition; that is to say, get ready for a lot of pizza and instant noodles. The oven pizza is an art form that you shall come to master, the packet of instant noodles will become an invaluable friend when the cupboards are bare.
Then there's the matter of takeaways. The post-night out takeaway is more than a luxury at university: it's a necessity you must take advantage of while your body is young enough to deal with it. There will be no other time in your life when you can go out, drink 10 pints of beer, eat a 12" pizza to yourself and not wake up the next day feeling like you're on an episode of Jeremy Kyle - Can we have the lie detector results please? And the results say that... you did eat that entire Domino's at 3am. Look at yourself, you shit. A disgrace, an absolute disgrace.
Not during Freshers' Week. All is forgiven during Freshers' Week. If you can find some time to get a few green leaves inside you, all the better, but if you happen to find those green leaves in a pitta bread surrounded by kebab meat, so be it.
Body and mind
Moving to university is a huge change in student's lives, but Freshers' isn't a breeze for everyone. Some people struggle with being away from home, away from their friends and family. Some have physical and mental health struggles that are exacerbated by the dramatic change. Some struggle to engage with other people and find the experience isolating and lonely.
Thankfully, with modern technology and improving support services, there are more ways for you to reach out if you're having a difficult time in the early days of your time at university. Friends and family are but a video call away, and many universities provide accessible and comprehensive student support departments to help those struggling.
There is also an excellent chance that you'll be struck down by the dreaded Freshers' Flu, a combination of germs brought from all corners of the country attacking your lowered immune system. If this happens... tough. There's not much more you can do than have a Lemsip and ride it out. Fear not, you'll be back in the saddle before you even realised you knew how to ride a horse.
The student loan is the holiest of deposits. One day your bank account has a fairly meagre sum, the next it has literally thousands of pounds in it - praise be to the gods of the Student Loans Company. Now that you're basically Pablo Escobar, the question is: what do you do with all this money? Pay your rent is a good one. Feed yourself is another. But after that?
Everyone advises you to keep a budget, making records of what you spend your money on, but the crossover in the Venn diagram of People Who Keep Detailed Budgets and People Who Are Fun To Be Around is fairly slim. Use your common sense. Do you need lunch? Yes. Do you need the £10 sushi platter for lunch? Probably not. Do you need a jacket to stay warm? Yes. Do you need a leather jacket with 'Dope Beats' written on the back in studs? Yes, but save up for it first.
You might as well have a good time while you can afford to, and if there's ever a week where you're allowed to recklessly spend money on booze and frivolities, it's Freshers' Week, but maybe swap the champers for a round of pints instead.
Feature image: Aberdeen Student Radio