When the opportunity to become a Freshers’ Representative came up, I knew that I wanted to apply. Having been part of a cohort that was deprived of a proper Freshers’ Week due to Covid-19, I felt compelled to ensure that the next wave of freshers had the most positive experience possible. Not only this, but as a member of South College, I was eager to become a part of my college community’s first ever ‘normal’ Freshers’ Week.
What I hadn’t accounted for was the fact that I had absolutely no clue what I was doing. Given my Freshers’ Week consisted mostly of pub quizzes and bingo sessions hosted on Zoom, I soon realised that I had no idea what to expect from nights spent inside clubs swarming with intoxicated eighteen year olds. Only on my first night out did I truly understand what unchartered territory I would be stepping into.
Suddenly, the two weeks of training we had undergone prior to Freshers’ Week went entirely out of the window. The many hours we had spent doing teambuilding activities were undeniably the calm before the storm. As soon as we were walking our cohort of freshers down the hill towards Klute, I realised that the games of wink murder and heads down thumbs up were long behind me. Now, the only game of duck, duck, goose that I’d be playing was chasing after drunk freshers hellbent on escaping the watchful eyes of their Freps.
Retrospectively, I recognise my naivety surrounding my role as a Frep. During our welfare training, I had been convinced that the events would run smoothly and that we would safely return our freshers home each night in one piece. Instead, every time I glanced down at my phone, the notifications on our ‘emergencies only’ group chat seemed to be growing exponentially. I could feel the adrenaline pumping through me on each of the three nights that I helped out with. Every time I handed out a breath mint, supported the weight of a stumbling fresher, or heard ambulance sirens in the distance, I wished more and more that I’d been put on a welfare night back in college.
Despite how emotionally and physically draining these nights out could be, they were equally invigorating. They provided the opportunity for me to bond even more with my fellow Freps, making friends with people who I hadn’t even been able to meet in my first year due to lockdown restrictions. Similarly, it was truly motivational chatting to freshers on the walks across town: answering their questions, easing their anxieties and helping to integrate them into the Durham community.
Having now been a Frep myself, my admiration for the Freps who welcomed me on my first day at college has only blossomed more. Until you’ve experienced it yourself, you have no idea how integral the Freps are in creating the magical atmosphere you become immersed in upon arrival. As a fresher, you don’t truly appreciate how smooth the moving in experience is made by the Freps. Your boxes are miraculously swept out of your car and carried to your building, a gourmet coffee voucher pressed into your palm, and you’re immediately made to feel at ease. Although I felt the weight of the hundreds of boxes I’d carried in my arms for a fair few days, the satisfaction it has given me to have helped make every fresher’s transition as comforting as possible has lasted much longer.
Being a Frep has been an extremely intense experience. It has been tiring, I’ve suffered the dreaded freshers’ flu that I managed to avoid last year, and I never want to bang a saucepan at sunrise again. Nonetheless, it is an opportunity that I wouldn’t have exchanged for anything. It was a privilege to be part of so many freshers’ new chapter of their lives and to see the students who had looked so anxious on move-in day seem so relaxed by the end of the week. In just three weeks, I have fostered some unimaginably close friendships and made countless memories as part of an incredible community of individuals. Would I do it again? Give me a year to recover, and probably.
Image: Thomas Tomlinson