Any minute now, university towns will be invaded by young people, many of them away from home for the first time. By definition, freshmen will be desperate to cram in as much as possible into just a few days. Freshers’ Week can be a full 7 days, a mere 5 at some unis, or stretched out to what’s billed as ‘the best two weeks of your life’. If you survive.
US-style hazing* isn’t part of the freshman experience in the UK, and may be illegal anyway. But giving ridiculously cheap alcohol to 18-year olds and seeing what happens? That’s a totally acceptable, even obligatory, part of the initiation that is Freshers’ Week.
It usually begins with an event called the Mingle and can end up anywhere. Alone the way, the student body gets into heaps of trouble: sex, accidents, drugs, debt, stress, freshers’ flu, gastric complaints, hypothermia, blackouts, lost underwear, chlamydia and the full shag (syphilis, herpes, ano-genital warts and gonorrhoea).
1 Smile at everyone. You never know who will be your best friend. Even better, snog everyone. Make sure you post the evidence on Facebook. You want people to think you’re friendly, don’t you?
2 Save time by multitasking. It’s possible to drink beer while doing almost any other activity eg crossing the street, wrestling on the rooftop. You can also make new friends in the queue at the sexual health clinic (see tip 1).
3 Be ambitious. The Freshers’ Fair is an intoxicating event meant to convince newbies that anything’s possible, even if, for some very good reason, they’ve never tried it before. You’re tone deaf? A choir beckons. You’ve inherited Auntie Pat’s tremor? Then the rifle club is for you. Just sign up and pay up.
4 Send automated messages back home. Whether text or email, these should be regular and reassuring. Sample messages to start you off:
Hey Mum. The library is fab! I plan to spend a lot of time there.
Hi Dad. I’ve joined the Chess Society and the gym.
This will ease the way when you run out of money sometime during week two.
5 Do the Circle Line pub crawl. Legendary and utterly London, this is where a second year, usually from some society or club, takes unsuspecting freshers to down a pint at each one of the 27 stops on the Circle line. It’ll make a massive dent in your wallet and your liver, but at least the next day you’ll be too wasted to get into any more trouble.
*For more on hazing, see http://www.stophazing.org/