Your three or four years at university are said to be the best of your life. Setting the tone for your university career, freshers week has a lot to live up to. You are eighteen years old with a chance to meet lots of new people, experience life away from home and do it One Direction style and ‘go crazy crazy crazy ‘til you see the sun.’ But with a stack of pre-course reading to do and the inevitable nervousness of having to make new friends from scratch, it’s actually the second years that have more fun. Cherwell’s Lifestyle looks at the reasons why re-freshers week trumps the original.
Meeting new people
Freshers week is an exciting blur of organised fun and meeting far too many people for successful name-face matching. The problem with the whistle-stop you-must-try-to-meet-everyone-on-day-one approach is vitally flawed in that you never get beyond the undeniably dull fresher small talk. What’s your name? Where are you from? What subject are you doing? are questions that will haunt you for the entirety of your freshers week experience. Despite providing an easy conversation starter with an equally nervous stranger, this set of interrogatory questions sound more like a hideously un-sexy version of Cilla Black’s Blind Date. Going back to college as a second year offers much brighter prospects in the form of the re-freshers week. You have already established a solid group of friends who you have either spent the summer with, or didn’t manage to see – in which case you have the whole of refreshers to catch up on your summer antics. No longer being pigeon-holed by the “Fresher” title allows you to return with a whole new air of maturity. You will all comment on how young the new freshers look. “We definitely never looked that young…”
As mad and alcohol oriented as any university freshers week is, the collegiate system results in a rather justified fear of getting a college reputation. If your college parents haven’t already warned you – they should. Do not bring back strangers from Park End in your first week. Do not streak across the lawn because someone dares you to. Do not exchange clothes with a stranger from the waist down in the middle Jammals (I learned this the hard way). If you do, be prepared for all the Sunday brunch gossip that ensues. As a re-fresher, you can get away with reckless behaviour. Not only can you live safe in the knowledge that you cannot possibly undo all the hard work you put in in first year to earn that flawless reputation but you also have a long list of mates ready to put you in the recovery position if needs be. Central to any Oxford experience; as a second year, you know what makes a good BOP costume. Life as a fresher is spent worrying about being creative and politically correct so as not to get your face branded all over the student (if not national) papers. As a re-fresher, you are liberated of all the stress; you have perfected the art of the home-made, last-minute, low-budget fancy dress costume.
Freshers week is far more structured than you would ever have imagined. Whilst the freshers spend their days attending-or feeling guilty that they didn’t attend-all the scheduled welcome/fire safety/introductory talks, the second years are sleeping in until 2pm, lunching at The Grand Café (when the student loan comes through) and having a long session down the pub.
However controversial, there is no denying that sharking is a massive part of re-freshers week. No matter how much you try to withstand temptation to shark, the excitement of the new ‘fresh meat’ coming into college is all too overwhelming. So whether you are abusing your position as Freshers Week President or acting the role of over-friendly college parent/grandparent (Sounds creepy but it happens- I can testify) you are guaranteed to get a bit more nookie than you did in freshers week. Even if the fresher in question is bold enough to seduce you, the second year, you will inevitably be termed a shark, for the mere principle of the age gap.
Be it subject or sport initiations or the first crew date of term, it is the second year’s responsibility to prepare the freshers for the uni lifestyle that awaits them. For the sake of tradition other than anything else, “down it fresher” can be heard echoing through the city of spires for the duration of freshers week, if not most of Michaelmas, Hilary and Trinity. If you are a fresher, do not be intimidated. You can of course refuse to see off your drink, but over the year I found that the best tekkers was to always have a soft drink to hand, so that you are guaranteed the respect minus the intoxication. By the time you get to second year, you can wave goodbye to the binge drinking culture and welcome in the new academic year with a civilised glass of port amongst friends. “Down it second year” just doesn’t have the same ring to it…
Two weeks into Michaelmas and half the population of freshers are overcome with sickness. The freshers flu epidemic is a phenomenon caused by a combination of a lack of sleep, excessive liver-bashing and a hell of a lot of germ sharing. You’re lucky if you can hear every third word of a lecture come 8th week, over the coughing Mexican-wave. Noone has ever heard of re-freshers flu. That’s because it doesn’t exist. With a year of experience behind them, second years come back to college with a stronger immune system and a cupboard full of berocca and lemsip.