Facing Freshers: The Fears & Navigating The First Week
On not fitting the university mould and life after education…
There were a lot of things that scared me about starting university.
There were the normal things of course; meeting new people (and wondering if we’d get along), the leaning tower of sticky bowls that would inevitably become one of the seven wonders of my world every time I’d pay a visit to the kitchen, and the distance from home- a bit of a shocker for a homebody that had pretty much lived in the pockets of her family since leaving the womb. But there were the irrational fears too- the bathroom sharing (and ‘oh GOD what if I need a poo when someone is in there’), the networking hikes to overcome, and of course- the fact I was starting university as a teetotal fresher.
Piece of piss.
It should have been a sign from day one. The day we got the train up to my new accommodation in the north, I ended up staying in the hotel room with my parents that first night, clinging on to any last glimpses of home- and soaking up the warmth and familiarity as I dragged them around the John Lewis at Liverpool One- I might have been a nervous fresher, but I was an optimistic one when it came to where I thought I could get my bed linen from. It was the time I should have been getting to know my flat mates, but the fear engulfed me- and when it came to waving my parents off, I’m not sure my mum or I stopped crying for a good few hours after we’d said our goodbyes. Dramatic? Possibly? But god, it felt daunting.
So, naturally, you can imagine at this point fresher’s week wasn’t something I jumped into. I didn’t slink my way onto the dance floor, and the closest thing I remember to being LIV PARTY PURVIS was wearing a t-shirt over a dress that would ‘get me into’ lots of bars for free (despite probably paying the weeks food shop amount for it)- which felt like an interesting experience for a first evening out. I also remember heading out wearing a duffle coat, tights and flat loafers on the only other evening out I made (I know), because the idea of getting chilly waiting outside a club far outweighed the likelihood that I could resemble a character from Submarine (or, in fact, Richard Ayoade presenting on Channel 4) than a fresher looking for some fun. Being someone who didn’t drink, I also struggled to throw myself into the ‘out out’ culture that freshers week felt so heavily reliant on. I’m not prudish, or a snob in any way- but struggled to find the confidence that I knew would come with a few pints and a beer jacket as part of my outfit. My boyfriend was studying across the country at the time, and across Facebook it looked like he’d thrown himself into true university culture. He was doing rag raids, was being photographed in the kind of group photos where people are flailing arms in the air LIKE THEY JUST DON’T CARE, and at one point took part in an initiation that involved him shaving his head (the less said about this, the better). I couldn’t have felt more boring, hairy and further from home (ironically, he later told me he had been feeling the same- so it was definitely not all as it appeared online, even then).
So, instead I started looking for jobs (god, even typing this I’m like ‘LOOSEN UP, LIV’). But for me, that was how I knew I’d be able to root myself a little more into a new city that felt too big for me. My love was fashion, and having just started my blog- this really felt like a way of meeting other women like me, as dull as that might sound. I handed out CV’s on the first weekend in Liverpool, and fortunately found a job working with the most brilliant group of women in a boutique, who truly made me feel like I had a place after all.
It wasn’t the shape cutting, club nights and foam parties that I’d expected- but as a nervous fresher, I found solace with women outside of the university bubble. I had a handful of brilliant pals on my course, but never really gave myself enough of a go to root myself into anybody else’s circles either- and looking back, if I’d have stayed I can’t recommend that enough. Everyone will be feeling the same, and nobody will ever shun away the opportunity for a new connection- I promise.
Although I chose to leave university just three months after starting, it was those women, the friends that came up and visited and the handful of people on my course (and in my flat) who made the brief time there manageable. I might have felt like the parent in our building (who was more set on making sure we had a mac ‘n’ cheese prepped for tea then whether I had a new outfit for Saturday)- but whether you’re hopping from bars, mingling on the shop floor or scouring societies- there’s a place at fresher’s week for everyone, even if that is from the comfort of your own bed after a solo evening out, I promise.