Column Road

Pressure on the Fresher

By Indigo Jones

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new academic year means a new columnist, and this year I will be Gair Rhydd’s opinionated spokesperson aka the Comment Columnist. This column will discuss various subjects spanning from student related concerns and everyday social issues. What better way to start the ‘Freshers’ issue’ than with a Freshers’ related topic?

“University isn’t for everyone”,is a statement you will hear regularly throughout your University experience, it’s people’s way of making you feel better if you are struggling with the workload or haven’t made many close friends. This sentence that is frequently repeated is rather accurate – university isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and that is apparent to some within the first few weeks of their course. You could say that this is down to the university tradition of Freshers’ week and the pressure put on first years to go out for two weeks straight.

This pressure to continuously binge drink on club nights within the first weeks of university isn’t necessarily from the University itself or from the new friends you make, but it stems from a long tradition within society to popularise binge drinking. When students begin this new step in their education the preconception that they must be alcohol-driven beings is fuelled from the classic stereotype of being a ‘student’ or being a ‘fresher’; this stereotype doesn’t always relate to all new students and then perhaps making them succumb to the pressure of going out in the process.

Before students even find out if they have been accepted in their chosen university, Freshers’ events pop up on social media, the likes of ‘foam parties’, ‘UV parties’ and guest appearances from Z-List celebrities.  Students become stressed about events they have not heard of before in clubs they haven’t been to with flatmates they haven’t even met. Discussions begin of which bands to buy and which clubs to go to, as they end up spending £50 on club nights, they will probably be too ill or hungover to attend. Freshers’ week itself is expensive with UCAS stating that “Students spend an average of £374 during freshers’ week, 135% more than an average weekly spend at university of £159”.

I too succumbed to the pressure of going out consistently during my own Freshers’ week 2 years ago, I also caved before even coming to Cardiff and bought an event band. My money was wasted, and this was a pattern throughout the first weeks of university through takeaways and fancy-dress costumes for events I didn’t make it to. Freshers’ week also made me realise how desperately I wanted to meet S Club 3 (the only 3 who are still part of the group) until I came to Cardiff, although these club appearances shouldn’t have been at the forefront of my studies.

The number of students who drink alcohol is decreasing – the Independent explains that 1 in 5 students declare that they are teetotal. This being said, Cardiff University is promoting new non-alcoholic events during the Freshers’ week, this enables students to have the option to take time off from their on-going drinking benders, let themselves overcome the relentless Freshers’ flu and rest their dying livers. It creates a way for those who aren’t fans of drinking and clubbing to socialise with new people and try new activities.  Growing up in a household with parents who didn’t drink alcohol it has always been apparent to me that they have been judged for doing so, with comments like “I wish I didn’t drink” and “Gosh, you must not like going out”, I can only imagine the pressure and comments made towards new students who don’t drink as it is implied all students do.

Within university there isn’t just a pressure to continuously go out; due to events such as the Freshers’ Fayre there is a strong sense of persuasion from societies to join them, which isn’t just a result of them giving out free pizza. This influence then leads to new students joining multiple societies and then feeling overwhelmed throughout the year due to numerous commitments.  During the fayres the societies offer numerous events, trips and activities for students to get involved with, these promises entice students to spend money on membership fees just to pay more money for the mentioned events. It’s an endless cycle of spending your student loan on bar crawls and bowling trips.

Something that goes hand in hand with the constant nights out and the joining of societies, is this immediate desire to make friends. For some introverts who prefer a night in and keep to themselves then this pressure to make friends immediately is daunting.

The compulsion to be involved doesn’t fade away, trust me when I say it continues throughout your university experience, as I am currently writing this article extremely hungover. What I’m saying is don’t let the pressure swallow you up, do things at your own pace and if you want to go out and get drunk every night or if you would rather stay in and watch the newest Netflix documentary that is completely up to you.

This stereotyping of students is something that need to be reconsidered as more students are opposed to the culture surrounding binge-drinking and societies. So why do we emphasise this stereotype and put pressure on students before they even attend university?  Students are run down before their heavy workloads begin, and we wonder why student mental health issues and stress levels rise within university.  I understand this is a time in our lives where we have the freedom to go and enjoy ourselves at this age, but perhaps it is worth considering those who aren’t extroverted.

So, here is an appeal to think of your quiet flatmates who would prefer to stay in or spare a thought for your new friend who doesn’t drink alcohol and don’t put pressure on them to continuously go out. If you are that person who doesn’t like to go out and join loads of societies then don’t worry because you are not alone, and numerous students have been in the same boat as you.

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