Brace yourselves, freshers are coming! The beginning of a new year at university means a rush of excitable and clueless students are busy plotting their route to campus and calculating how to balance their practical and social needs in their budget.
Remember being in secondary school and laughing at the new batch of lost little Year 7s hunched over under their rucksacks, looking like nervous little turtles? This pattern repeats with the way the upper years treat the first years at university, and it absolutely shouldn’t.
Whether you are a fresher this year, or an older and ‘wiser’ student returning to campus, give this a read and remember that you’re all students sharing the same university.
Don’t laugh at people who are lost
When I crossed the imaginary chasm from fresherdom to the superior second year ranks last year and watched the fresh meat arrive in their masses to take over campus, the condescending comments and irritation with these “children”, (many of whom were older than me, or at least much taller), was an immediate reaction. The main complaints? Congestion everywhere, all of the time.
It is not the fault of the individual fresher that they are fumbling around trying to find room A1.28, and causing an annoying delay. Arriving on campus is disorientating for everyone and the headless chicken moments are inevitable.
Try and remember that you were at least as much of a train wreck as them and it would have been so much nicer if someone had been kind enough to give you a hand instead of scoffing as you spun around with a map in your hands.
Don’t rain on their parade
It is easy to roll your eyes as someone gushes with naive excitement about the club nights on campus, but you shouldn’t badmouth events which you were excited about a couple of years ago.
On one of my first nights of freshers we were talking to a fourth-year Politics student who had been president of the magic society and he looked into our bright fresher eyes and told us that our university was rubbish and we were wasting our time and money. It was a real downer on our evening. He seemed so pleased with himself for this insider information, but his jaded pessimism just made him suddenly unwelcome in our booth.
Don’t get too big for your boots
The idea that there is a massive gap between freshers and the rest of the university is a myth. After the first few weeks of acclimatisation, there is no real way of distinguishing a fresher from a well seasoned third year, especially as people start university at different ages. Some of those freshers that you might be looking down your nose at could well be older than you, travelled to more countries, know more about their subject and have more money in their bank account and more common sense in their heads.
Don’t rule freshers out as friends. This isn’t secondary school anymore and there are no boxes drawn around who you should hang out with. If you miss that first term of university where people were unusually friendly and it was normal to introduce yourself to any stranger, then take advantage of these new-to-town students who are eager to meet new people.
Don’t be a shark
Freshers are friends, not food. If your method of finding someone to go home with for the night could ever be described as a “hunter stalking its prey”, then you need to go home and rethink your life.
There were a couple of times during arrivals weekend where my flatmate and I would hear this same line from second years who had missed the last bus and needed somewhere to crash. Turned out that we, as freshers, had all the power in that situation and the poor guys had to undergo the hardship of paying a tenner for a taxi.
So play nice
“I wish I could bake a cake filled with rainbows and smiles and everyone would eat and be happy.”
It is very easy to fall into fresher-mocking and I openly admit to my past misdemeanours, but we can do better. First-year students are just students who happen to be in their first year of university and not a separate species sent from space to annoy and amuse you.
And freshers, don’t let the second, third or even fourth years fool you – they are still very much lost, dazed and confused.
Do you have any examples of times when older students weren’t friendly to the freshers? Tell us in the comments below.
Photo: Ben Smith / Flickr