The Gair Rhydd Column

No Pressure, Fresher

Who knew alcohol poisoning and crippling debt could be so brilliant

By Helena Hanson

Welcome, Freshers. This is it: your fresh start, your clean slate, your new chapter in life. As a third year, I finally feel adequately qualified to dispense advice. Based on my own mistakes, my own triumphs and my own illustrious experiences, I have created a plethora of advice I can only wish somebody had given me.

You will learn more about life in the first three months of university than you ever have in the past eighteen years of your life. You will quickly realise absolutely everything you learnt during your A Levels is completely fucking useless and you will quickly become crippled by how much it costs to generally survive.

You must do your best to eat vegetables and maybe take some vitamins, because it is imperative that you do not become ill. You will never go to the doctor’s, in fact you won’t even know where your doctor’s surgery is. You will research your symptoms, discover that immediate brain surgery is the only way to remove your rapidly evolving tumour, and accept your imminent death.

It is essential you take all necessary precautions during Fresher’s week, because Freshers Flu is real, so real, and will dramatically reduce your quality of life. Once infected, you will become a walking germ, snuffling and spluttering your way through lectures and snotting around your new flat. It will last months. Some say it never really goes away. For the rest of your natural life you shall walk the earth with a tickle in the back of your throat that can never truly be soothed and a sniffle in your nose that will never, ever blow out.

There will soon come a time during your first year at university that you begin to realise that socially acceptable behaviour no longer applies and conventional good etiquette is no longer necessary. You will realise it is perfectly admissible to remind Cardiff Met students of their inferior rank in the class system, and any chant that reminds Swansea University students that their parents work for our parents is, in fact, actively encouraged.

Pettiness will become a thing of the past. It is acceptable to nag your mates for that £1.70 that you lent them towards their chicken nuggets three Fridays ago. In fact, not only is it acceptable, it is absolutely necessary damnit! You must calculate every penny that you are owed in order to avoid inevitable, certain death.

You will nearly die countless times, and this is something you will come to accept but don’t tell your parents this. You will almost die from scurvy from your pot noodle and microwave mash diet, before then reaching near death by starvation. You will nearly be murdered in a thousand questionable taxis, almost run down in a hundred near-fatal road crossings, almost poisoned by a dozen dodgy kebabs and convince yourself you have been spiked and/or have alcohol poisoning at least fifty times before Christmas. Then, when you lie awake at nine AM, the morning after a long night in the SU, with a churning stomach full of VK’s and cheap shots, a backside threatening to dispense all contents at any moment, and a head full of painful and unthinkable regrets, you will finally ask to die.

The SU is a sanctuary. A testosterone-filled, VK spilled, sticky paradise that will make Wednesday and Saturday nights worth being indebted to the government for the rest of your life. You will adventure out to exotic new venues, but the Union will always be your home. You will try a night in Tiger Tiger, and walk away concluding you’d rather spend an evening locked in a room with actual Tigers than the creatures that are inherent in there. You will undoubtedly try a night in Walkabout, fist pumping to The Pretenders and acting like you don’t mind stomping through piss with beer in your hair, and if you don’t get thrown out of Live Lounge at least once over the three years, then you, my friend, have failed.

Enjoy making new friends. Hang on to those that will let you off the electricity money you owe them, and the ones that run and hide with you when you’ve thrown up on the floor in Glam. Don’t waste time with those who don’t let you have a bit of their dinner and please don’t be that flatmate that everybody hates for throwing up in the sink and never taking the bins out.

I am yet to meet anybody that didn’t have some sort of attempt at reinventing themselves the summer before university. We got haircuts, bought new clothes, took up new hobbies, lied about our backgrounds. Don’t worry. There will come a point during the year, probably just after Christmas, where you can stop pretending to your flatmates that you are cool. We soon realised it is absolutely far too exhausting to be somebody else and we put the five pounds back on, grew out our edgy haircuts and admitted we love Antiques Roadshow and dipping toast in mayonnaise.

Alas, things are not all gravy. Your new found freedom means that you will have to do boring things like cooking, and washing. If you live in Talybont, you should start asking your parents to re-mortgage their house now, because that little laundry card will suck more money from your bank account than your rent ever will.

You will witness scenes that will scar you for the rest of your life. Cathays on bin day bears resemblance to war-torn Baghdad and the odours you will inhale over those 24 hours will be enough to put you off eating indefinitely. You will witness brutal, bloody battles. Friends will turn to nemeses over the last sweet potato in Lidl and there will come a time when inescapable poverty will turn you to Tesco Value Vodka.

You must learn to accept a number of truths. Residents of Talybont Gate will play crochet on their little lawn in the summer, bobbing their heads to the music blaring from their Jaguars and tying their Ralph Lauren V-necks around their shoulders. Just as the inhabitants of Talybont North will discover unbeknown creatures in their bed that even David Attenborough would cringe at the sight of. Talybont South will remain populated by the type of students that have ‘BNOC’ in their Twitter bio, and Talybont Court residents will always be the most miserable because they are the furthest distance from Big Tesco.

University is an odyssey, a pilgrimage of mistakes and accidents and occasional, astronomical fuck-ups that eventually teach you how to become a normal, functioning human being. You will try and wash your jeans in the shower to save money at least once, and don’t get me started on the lengths you will go to in order to effectively steal restaurant toilet roll. You will do disgusting things for a free slice of Domino’s pizza, and you will sign your life away so many times in order to get free stuff you must accept your certain descent to hell. Don’t take advantage of your overdraft, never mix beer and cider, try and watch as much international rugby as you can. Use condoms. Learn some Welsh words, call home to talk to your parents not just to ask them for money, and channel your inner Jehovah’s Witness by knocking on as many doors during Freshers as humanely possible.

With that, anxious fresher, get ready for the best three years of your life.

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