Words By Luke Thomson
“It will be the best week of your life” I was told coming into Freshers, an experience to never forget and one that will surely set a tone for things to come. Of course, with the infinite difficulties that we’ve all faced with Covid and its ongoing fallout, this year the reality was never really going to match up to such great expectations. Yet, so far, I am pleased to say that in the midst of all the stress and confusion, these weeks have been both enjoyable and transformative.
In fact, it seems pure madness that just a few days ago I moved in; with how well my flatmates and I have gotten on it feels like we’ve known each other for weeks. Sadly though even the day of welcome was not left unscathed by the pandemic – restrictions ensured that just one parent could join us in the car journey down, meaning my Dad had to be left behind at home with my black Labrador Zeus. I wish he could have seen me off properly, but it is what it is I suppose. Once we got here though I felt relieved, and the pent-up anticipation and nerves were soothed mightily. Everyone has been just absolutely lovely and I think the fact that all of us were and still are in the same boat of anxiousness has linked us.
What I’ve felt to be the biggest change from both College and Lockdown life to Uni is the sheer increase of social interaction – from going out with a couple of friends maybe twice or three times a week previously, to now seeing seven others almost all day, every day is different to say the least. It’s astonishing to think how quickly one could adapt to all of this as well, whilst at times it certainly hasn’t been easy to fit in and find my place, I feel so much more used to Uni life and the atmosphere in just one or two weeks (imagine what everyone will feel in one month!). For instance, two of the people in my flat are heavily invested into Tarot Card readings. Initially I was pretty dismissive about it and found the whole idea quite odd. Whilst I still don’t fully click with it, I’ve grown, in just one week, to not take it so seriously and I even received a “reading” of my own which was quite fun and surprisingly accurate! That’s a very specific point but I think it highlights how quickly one can adapt, even in the midst of a global virus.
Another big obstacle to me so far has been the process of finding new friends – whereas before these weeks would have been full of in person society meet ups and stalls, almost everything now has been moved online. Whilst this is better than nothing and some of the events have definitely been worth virtually attending, it just doesn’t have the same raw social chaos and reward that comes with an in-person meet. Of course there’s nothing to be done about this and the policies that stop us from meeting others are tremendously sensible given the situation, but this doesn’t stop a slight sense of both missing home, and general loneliness.
That being said, there’s a lot to take from having time to yourself. My favourite thing to do when I feel like this is to go on a little walk around the countryside. Fortunately, my block is completely encompassed by fields and woods, and I find nothing better than to just turn off my phone and get lost in the natural surroundings. Stanmer park has been a particular favourite of mine so far; not only is there a big football pitch to walk around but it’s completely encompassed by a set of giant hills and woods – none of which I’m remotely close to fully exploring.
This piece has taken me a week or two and since I started, it has certainly gotten a lot better, as most things do with enough time and effort. Personally I found the Freshers week itself too mixed with new people, choices and problems to fully enjoy and engross myself. But as the days have gone by, I’ve had ample time to adapt myself to not having parents and home around, and to improve the new relationships I’m making in and outside the flat, which have had a time to grow and brew.
Another part of why I think things have gotten so much better is because instead of simply chilling alone in my room, calling friends from home or watching Netflix, I’ve spent almost every evening out in the kitchen or in Brighton with flatmates. Like any new situation with new people, that feeling of awkwardness and unsurity can only go away by spending more and more time with said people.
Still its not perfect given the lockdown situation – three flats in the block next to us have all had traces of Covid and are having to self-isolate. Almost feels like a matter of time before this could happen here too. Its really a massive human nature conflict I think. Students should obviously abide by the rule of six law and not mingle with other flats, there’s no doubt about that. Doing so would almost surely have resulted in their being far less cases than there is currently on campus. Yet, when students have been fed this idea, from social media, siblings, and let’s be honest here, universities, that Freshers week is this grand, epic week that one should be able to find themselves in and meet new people – can you really blame people for not wanting to keep to the flat for the whole week?
To conclude, I would say my experience as a “Fresher” would have to be said as, overall, a positive and interesting one. As I’ve mentioned it has taken some getting used to, and there is quite a lot still that I remain either worried, stressed or at least not comfortable with just yet. But just like in the lockdown in April, in these times of restrictions and limits, there is a lot of good to be taken from the little pleasures in life. For anyone who is struggling right now; just take a little walk round the campus, maybe write a few notes in a notebook about how you feel – if it’s getting really bad, give the student life centre a call. Unlike the crummy services they can give for under 18s, these guys are brilliant. Just having someone like that to listen and reassure you the feelings and worries you’ve been having are natural and nothing to be embarrassed about does wonders for your day and week.
Good luck to all my fellow first years: “keep ya head up”.