The fabricated, fantasy world of the great British freshers week is viewed as some sort of enshrining, quasi-religious experience that binds the student body politic into three years of absurd over consumption and maniacal efforts to find other people interesting. Needless to say you would be unwise to believe any of the overtly exaggerated codswallop touted by promoters, student reps, new students, former students, the housekeeper (matron, to those more expensively educated), the surly woman that tells you how to turn the kettle on or the internet. The reality, no matter if you are a social butterfly or seeker of solitude is frankly, quite different.
The very second your (much relieved) parent/guardian drops the last John Lewis box into your communal slum the fun of freshers week begins. You realize you’ve traded one paradoxical middle class environment for another, albeit for you, a more expensive one. You gaze affectionately at the large box of non perishables you purchased prior to your arrival to make the weekly shop easier on your teeming schedule and pocket – this will be the last saving you ever make. You meet a charming young woman who claims even though she lives in a four bedroom palace in Belsize Park and is wearing £400 Versace jeans she’s “just like everyone else” and “really likes Corbyn”. You make the rounds meet the other champagne socialists and the prosecco Tories and you feign surprise that every single one of them is studying neuro science and are a whiter shade of pale.
You are enamoured by the teeming diversity in your chosen alma mater and you’ve got to hand it to Tony Blair for the ingenious idea of forcing every single person and their dog to attend university – in the process turning perfectly good vocational polytechnics into peddlers of sub standard academic qualifications. As a result most degrees now have the cachet of a GCSE in Art circa 1992 so the £50,000 mound of debt acquired at the end of your distant 3 year stint will mean even less than it does at present. The whole dreary sausage factory is only kept alive by flogging the illusion of Brideshead Revisited to thousands of sad eyed Chinese who wander the grim streets of Macclesfield looking for the Quad or a glimpse of a gowned professor.
On the bright side a 500ml carton of own brand concentrated fruit juice is only £4.05 from the handy campus shop. You head back to the flat considering the next move.
After sprucing up you decide to attend a f’reshers event’. Carefully organized and executed by the university student union who insist on wearing an appalling shade of turquoise/mauve/puce (delete as appropriate) t-shirt and say your name with the same drawl as Roz (the monster slug) spews “Hey Wasowski”. Said event features a cutting edge creative representative of British youth culture. This obtrusive, festively rounded character performs a stream of hits so quietly you manage to engage in conversation with a woman clothed head to toe in vintage Adidas. She assures you she’s wearing it all ironically and that in fact her whole life is ironic. You imagine her forced South East London accent is also ironic but suddenly you are swept along by a wave of off key sonic drudge and you lose your train of thought; then having solemnly promised to keep in touch you will never see this person again – ironically.
You call it a night and return home. When you get back to your gleaming ivory tower you consider why Freshers Week is such an institution and why it is so successful in soliciting wide eyed teenagers into attending badly organised events. Promoters and Student Union’s capitalize on a culture where the biggest dread is the fear of missing out. That sickening feeling of not being involved in absolutely everything in what is supposed to be the golden years of your young adult life allows these people to charge over inflated prices for mediocre gatherings in order to ring even more money out of you on behalf of the institutions that are crippling your peers. You consider making the 7 and half hour train journey back to your hometown on your birthday and coming back when lectures begin. You ignore that thought and throw up in the sink. You don’t want to miss out.
Words by Aaron Powell