The famous freshers week. Usually synonymous with drinking, partying and having sex. This year however, included all of those things but with an extra COVID-19 twist added in. Club nights were replaced by games nights on Teams and talks were replaced introductory speeches on Zoom. I soon realised that online interactions were not how I was going to meet people. So, how does one enjoy themselves during freshers week while trying to adhere to nationwide guidelines?
It was a strange feeling leaving my parents’ house. The reality of my situation hadn’t sunk in yet. It was only on the train, accompanied by my friend, when it hit me that I would be sleeping in a different bed.
The closer that we got to the university, the more excited I felt. After hauling my luggage to the place that I now call home, I put down my things and unpacked.
First on my to do list was to find out where people were playing football. Football is the easiest way to make friends. A group of people with the same objective. To win.
It was only one Tesco trip and two hours later that I became acquainted with my flat mates. But after a couple of card games, I was off again to look for the coveted motive; an event that ultimately eluded me.
The motive ended up being a walk around the campus; something necessary since I didn’t attend the open day. I even met some familiar faces along the way as well as a load of new ones. In hindsight, it was probably the best night because it was the start of something new and there seemed to be so much opportunity to meet people.
A group bonding trip with my flat mates was the order of the day. Wagamama was on the menu as we sat at socially distanced tables.
The surrounding area to my university is okay but not quite home. There’s not a great deal to do so I went out to look for action.
Once again, I headed out by myself in pursuit of motives. I tried to stick with people that I’d met the night before, building on connections, while also becoming acquainted with new folk.
However, the experience of walking around in the cold was quickly getting old. Campus security were everywhere and the parties that I did attend consisted of large groups of guys standing in doorways, a few girls scattered around kitchen counters and a small speaker playing the latest UK rap hits.
I soon called it a night.
I forgot to mention that I attended a few webinars with useful information on budgeting, entrepreneurship and my course. These were the standout online events because it’s so difficult to recreate a games night or a meet and greet online. These online events kept me engaged until the night time – by which time I was tired of roaming the streets like an urban fox.
I was planning on having a relaxing night with my flat mates until I got the call. Just as I was about to wind down before bedtime, my friend was outside and ready. So, I picked up my shoes and stepped out. The night was spent wandering about the campus with my fellow nocturnal freshers once more.
The inner voice in my head had become much louder than usual. I think the uncertainty of my stay at university and the pressure of having to make more decisions for myself, was the cause of this.
I had to use my support system: home workouts, runs and speaking with friends to stay sane.
So, that night, I met up with one of these friends and we toured the campus and looked at our respective accommodations. It was a moment to really appreciate how far we had come and how much further there is to go.
By now I needed a change of environment. In one of the online meetings, I learnt about the wonders of the university’s library. I figured that it would be the perfect change of scenery and would have everything to fulfil my needs.
On my way there, I met someone from the first night, who I had actually met for the first time, almost 365 nights ago. That’s the strange thing that I have found with university; I have reconnected with so many people. I went on to link up with another old friend that very night.
I walked out, The Art of Peer Pressure by Kendrick Lamar playing in my headphones. I tried to remain inconspicuous draped in head to toe Nike on that late night. My cologne was already wearing off and I wanted to make good use of it during the night’s activities.
Once I met my friend, we travelled towards the venue of the promised motive. We met up with two more people but before we could even enter the party, I had my first run in with the campus law.
My friend and I looked at each other, unsure of what to say. We were in the wrong place at the wrong time. All I knew was that I had to keep my mouth shut and get out of there.
Luckily, we were simply told to leave – taking no chances I was out of there immediately. Never again, I promised myself. I don’t want to get fined.
Convinced that the night was going to end prematurely, a group of us headed back to central campus. But this is where the fun began.
Talking to strangers; I was in my element. I knew that I didn’t want to end the night on a flat note so it was sink or swim. Fortunately, I had recently been watching the YouTube series, Does The Shoe Fit? so I was ready with a handful of proven one liners.
By the end, my new friends were asking me to teach them so if you want tutoring, I charge £20 an hour.
The week was drawing to a close. I considered reigning it in a little and so did my flat mates. Many of them had been drinking almost every night and a lack of sleep was starting to take its toll.
We decided on a group outing to the university cinema to watch Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. Less heady than Tenet, it was a beautiful film and a beautiful night.
The last day. My flat mates were going out for brunch but I had a more important event that I was concerned with. A 5 aside football tournament. Not exactly the upper echelon of university football but fun nonetheless.
Admittedly, I was on the waiting list, since I was unable to book a place soon enough for the competition that was in such high demand.
Once I arrived, there were only two spaces left to enter the tournament and ten times that number waiting to get in.
I didn’t want to seem selfish yet simultaneously I had a desire to play. Everyone was doing the English thing of queueing and telling each other that they could ‘go ahead’ since ‘I don’t mind’. But after about a minute of this, I realised that I wanted to be American. I took the opportunity since others were reluctant to and joined a team.
I’d met three of my teammates prior to the tournament; we live in the same block; but I had no idea of their footballing ability. Nevertheless, the chemistry was there and we went on to win every single game, even winning the final 6-1.
I finished top scorer (pretty good for a natural defender) and earned a well-deserved shower, after playing for two hours in the rain. A big win to end the week.
That’s how my freshers week turned out. I don’t know how that compares to other years; probably less partying this time. I didn’t have ridiculously high expectations but remember ending the week thinking about whether my life had changed that greatly. Regardless, I enjoyed myself despite COVID-19 restrictions and it was good to have some fun before the real work begins.