By Lily Gershon and Emily Parsons
From blackout drunken nights out in Jimmy’s to showing up to matriculation still drunk from the night before, freshers week is certainly a rite of passage for all university students. So, as the dust begins to settle on the frenzy of parties and asking people whether they too are an Oxbridge reject, we’ve turned to Durham students to recount the highs and lows that made up the fabric of their freshers week.
For many students, university consists of a full-round education, both academically and personally. Included in this is the first taste of balancing finances and prioritising money. For one entrepreneurial fresher, the week consisted of saving money by refusing to purchase toilet paper. Their solution? Killing two birds with one stone by going on college bar crawls and stealing toilet paper from the bathrooms. This silly fresher quickly realised how unsustainable their practice just might be, telling Indigo that “stealing toilet paper doesn’t save you that much money, just buy your own.” We are sure Durham’s colleges are thankful this fresher quickly came to this realisation.
Every student arriving at university also dreams of breaking records during their time. Whether it be in sports, music or theatre, every student aspires to fully immerse themselves in the university experience. One zealous student, however, took the sentiment ‘go big or go home’ to the extreme. After two hospital trips, this ambitious fresher reports breaking the record for the worst case of ‘freshers flu’ the NHS had ever seen, being diagnosed with an extreme case of sinusitis. When speaking to Indigo to offer their advice for future generations of silly fresh, this student wisely said, “After a week of antibiotics, I was able to quickly recover. I was incredibly humbled – freshers flu is no joke. Make sure to stock up on cold and flu medicine when you can.” We will certainly take that on board.
There is no doubt that before arriving at university, every student begins to feel nervous. All of us can remember the moment we said goodbye to our parents, and that sudden realisation of being on your own that makes your stomach sink. One student explicitly remembers how they “walked into an event alone and everyone was already in groups talking. I was too nervous to start a conversation so I faked a call and left within five minutes.” But, this didn’t spark a downward spiral of self-doubt. When speaking to Indigo, the brave fresher told us how they “spoke to friends from home instead and met some new people” the very next day – “I made plenty of friends and have had a great time at Durham”. We are sure every student has experienced a similar situation and we are also sure, like this fresher, everyone will be able to find their people and enjoy their time.
Societies are a very effective way of meeting new people in Durham. However, joining them is apparently not always smooth sailing: “I’d decided I wanted to try out college rowing”, one ex-fresher tells us. “But there was a swim test involved. I literally hadn’t gone swimming since I was 12, but me and a few of my new housemates had decided we were all going to try out. We woke up at 6am and I ate a huge breakfast, hoping it would give me some energy for all the cardio we were about to do. Big mistake.”
“At the swim test, I watched each successive housemate complete the tasks with relative ease. When my turn came, I jumped in and felt instant regret, sloshing around the two laps like a drowning dog. I didn’t complete the rest of the test and waited for my housemates to finish treading water whilst I sat feeling like I was going to vomit.”
“I got changed and started walking back with them. But, about 5 minutes in, I threw up in the street outside a coffee shop at the cool hour of 8:30am. We walked back afterwards in total silence. Safe to say I didn’t make the rowing team.” When asked whether this experience had any long-lasting consequences on the oh-so-important housemate relationships, the student tells us “it’s all good. I ended up dating one of the people who watched as I vomited in the street first thing in the morning.” His advice to freshers? “Don’t stress.”
So, freshers week certainly seems to stand as a crucial moment for students, marking the transition from mere adolescent to an adult at university. It’s a time loaded with exhilarating highs and cringe-worthy lows where the boundaries of a functional human are tested and friendships are formed amid the mayhem. The stories shared here offer an insight into the collective experience of embarrassment and hilarity that all students encounter as they start this new chapter of personal growth – truly a testament to the spirit of university life.
Illustration by Adeline Zhao