Features / Lifestyle Features

Down it Fresher!

Credit: Dani Lurie

Credit: Dani Lurie

This is a phrase that many of you will probably have heard at some point during your Fresher’s Week, before choking down an eye-watering concoction of various types of alcohol. STYCs (Second and Third Year Contacts) are often blamed for forcing or pressurising freshers into unwanted drinking, causing some quaking doe-eyed 18-year old to splutter on strong spirits and promptly vomit onto the pavement, before passing out, reviving, and losing their virginity to said STYC in an orgy of drunken revelry. This is, quite frankly, rubbish.

As a future STYC myself, we are specifically told, in the strictest terms, not to pressure anyone into anything they don’t want to do, especially concerning alcohol. I’m not going to be pouring straight gin down their throats, but I will take them out and show them the nightlife if they want to. Every College JCRC will have non-alcohol related events for freshers to attend, but the sad truth is that alcohol is an ice-breaker.

Arriving as a wide-eyed, barely-turned-18 lightweight from a life of girls’ school, I was given a glass of Sainsbury’s value white wine to drink and thrown into a mass of people that I would soon grow to know and love. One game of ‘I have never’ in my Fresher’s Week revealed facts about my flatmates that interested, amused, shocked and disturbed in equal measure, facts that would have taken many years of friendship to achieve.

Yes, I’m going to be a STYC. I will buy my freshers value wine, get drunk with them, laugh with them and dance with them. But I’m also going to tell them about alternative events, take the tired and overwhelmed ones home in a taxi, cook them pizza and hopefully help them on their way to a year as fulfilling and enjoyable as I had have.

Wisdom I want to impart to my freshers –

1. Take advantage of the City Screen cinema membership deal in Week 1. Only available on Fresher’s Week, you can get free membership for the year, which gets you a discount on ticket-prices, a free Stella and an E4 Slacker’s Club membership, which means every month a free and exclusive viewing of the chosen film. This month it was Get Him to the Greek starring Russell Brand, free to watch a whole day before the official release date. How jammy is that?

2. Early on in the term, gather your fellow flat-mates together one Sunday, and head down to the Deramore Arms for a Sunday roast. Like any respectable girl, I love the Charles and their 99p wine which has seen me through many a merry evening, but for food, the Deramore wins. The Charles may be cheaper but the portions are smaller and the quality inferior. For perhaps a pound or two more, you get a properly home-cooked roast, with piles of succulent meat, heaps of freshly-prepared seasonal vegetables and an extra jug of gravy, as well as a better chance of finding a seat indoors. Go for a walk in the countryside afterwards and bask in the warm family feeling that is hopefully developing between you and your flatmates.

3. Make friends with the porters. They hold spare room-keys, keep your valuable post and parcels for you and try and help with everything, even if it’s just a drunken case of slamming your fingers in a door. Definitely people you want on your side.

4. Get to know the campus. There’s a temptation when living in halls to encase yourself in your room and your college, dragging yourself out of bed only for food, lectures and going out. Sure, upon first glance campus does look like a mismatched array of old 60’s prisons and intergalactic new buildings, but explore a little and you’ll discover hidden gems. The Buddha statue in the woods outside the Berrick Saul building, the Quiet Place with its peaceful fountains and the horse field outside campus. All amazing places to go with a good book and a bottle of cider.

5. Never check your bank balance. Ever. If you don’t look at it, it means there is still money in there.

Originally published on The Yorker 2nd July 2010

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