So you’ve survived the first weekend, you’ve spoken to tons of new people and you’ve potentially overdone it with the alcohol. But now it’s Monday, you have a million intro talks and you have no idea how to adult – now what?
Have no fear, fresher’s week and by all accounts first year is a learning curve for the best of us. I turned up to my first lecture after two hours sleep, munching a kitkat chunky and hoping that I didn’t die over the next hour. I partied too hard, didn’t eat right and caught whooping cough that plagued me for an entire term. I had no idea how to adult and neither did most of my friends. Truth be told I’m still figuring it out: buying new underwear instead of washing it and eating cereal out of a mug it is totally okay right?
As an adult and Welfare officer I should probably be telling you to go to bed early, eat balanced meals and skip the vodka but let’s face it nobody would listen! Instead I’m going to share a few tips for surviving the next few weeks and making sure you’re looking after yourself:
- Say no to things, have night in or have a sober night: Making new friends is probably your biggest priority and the temptation is to go to every single event on offer. It’s hard to say no when you don’t feel secure in your community. However, I can assure you there’s no point in going out every day for two weeks then spending the next month or two bed ridden with fresher’s flu. If you take some time out for yourself, you’ll have more fun and be able to maintain the pace over the term. And let’s face it, there are so many opportunities to make friends missing a couple of events is not really going to make a difference. Basically, know your limits and you'll have more fun - trust me I've been there!
- Get enough sleep: With the buzz of a new year and the excitement of leaving home it’s easy to deprioritise sleep. Nobody is going to suggest you go to bed, remind you that you have an early morning lecture or wake you up with tea and toast. On the contrary people will be encouraging you to ‘stay for one more,’ to party the night away and explore London. Whilst you should most definitely make the most of fresher’s week and the light work load, you still need to get your beauty sleep. You want people to fancy you don’t you? ;) In all seriousness though, if you don’t get enough sleep your immune system can’t work properly, you’re more likely to be grumpy and your probably won’t have as much fun. Some people function better with little sleep, but if you’re anything like me pulling an all-nighter will leave you miserable and snotty. So make sure you’re getting some sleep, and have at least 2 nights of good sleep over the week. Naps between lectures are also a must. Ps. the sofas in SAF are a prime napping spot.
- Don’t do anything unless you actually want to: Alcohol, sex, drugs, nights out, dares – don’t be peer pressured into them! It’s also important to note that College has a strict no drugs policy on campus (including halls), and really if it’s illegal you shouldn’t be doing it.
- Don’t drink (or take) anything if you don’t know what it is and where it has been: It might be tempting to mine-sweep the bar or pop a pill that somebody offers you in a nightclub but it’s really not wise. You could end up getting hurt, unwell or getting all your cash nicked as a consequence.
- Water is your friend: Fresher’s week is full of exciting drinks, usually the alcoholic kind, but it’s super important to make sure you’re drinking enough water. Drink water with or in-between your alcoholic drinks and before you go to bed – it’s the best way to ward off a hangover and keep yourself from getting white girl wasted. It’s also a good idea to keep water with you through the day, to help you through those early morning lectures.
- Don’t forget to eat: There’s plenty of times for healthy eating and home cooking once fresher’s week is out of the way, but for now just worry about making sure you actually eat! Eating fruit and veg will help fight off the fresher’s flu, whilst carbs are a pre and post party essential. If you don’t know how to, or don’t have time to, cook then make sure you capitalise on the free food in halls and at fresher’s fair. You can also grab sandwiches and hot food on campus, with the advantage of a student discount. If you fancy something more upmarket, food is never far away with deliveroo, hungryhouse and dominos apps. A cheaper alternative is buying ready meals, store pizzas and super-noodles. This is an expensive way to eat though, so make sure that once the excitement dies down you learn, and make time, to cook – beans on toast and tomato pasta really aren’t that hard!
- If you’re going to do risky things, do them with caution: As a representative of the Union I should probably be telling you not to drink too much, to take drugs or have sex with strangers but the reality is that some of you will anyway. After all, university is a time of freedom and exploration. Make sure that if you are doing these things you take precautions to protect yourself i.e. drink water when you drink, don’t take unknown drugs or mix them with alcohol and make sure you use a condom – syphilis isn’t fun guys (and apparently there are higher rates of it in London)! For the record, I don’t recommend breaking the law or putting yourself in danger, there’s plenty of fun to be had without!
- Plan your route home: I know it sounds boring and you’ve probably heard it a million times, however, it’s super important to know how you’re getting home. London can be a different place at night and if you’re drunk it’s easy to get lost. Download City Mapper, it will be your best friend. Also, if you find yourself stranded use Cabwise or hail a black cab – these cabbies know London like no other and trust me, they’ve saved me a few too many times!
- Watch out for you stuff: My friends always laugh at me for being ‘paranoid’ about con-artists and pick pockets but the reality is London is full of them. Tourists attract wealth and where there is wealth there is theft. Make sure you keep you belongings with you, don’t wave your cash about at the cash point, and don’t leave your valuable in an open bag or back pocket. Watch out for your phone, there are plenty of people who’d love to swipe it whilst you’re taking drunken selfies or when you’ve left it on the bar.
- Use a condom: A reiteration of a former point but very important. You can get free condoms at fresher’s fair, from the union, the GP and sexual health centres. Also go and get yourself checked! I know it seems embarrassing but it’s the adult thing to do and actually not embarrassing at all. On the other hand, harbouring an STI for months because you avoided getting a check up, that kinda is…
- Think about consent: I discussed rape culture in my previous blog post and I recommend you check it out. It’s really important to think about consent at all times but particularly during fresher’s week when things seem a bit crazy. Don’t grab people’s bums or crotches without consent, it might seem harmless but it’s actually sexual assault. Don’t have sex when either one or both of you is drunk and don’t pressure people into it. Alternatively, don’t feel pressured by somebody or by the general culture. It might seem like everyone’s doing it but I can assure you they’re not, the Felix sex survey can confirm.
- Don’t force people to drink: If you’re anything like me you’ll love a good boat race or drinking game but it’s crucial to remember that other people don’t and that is 100% okay. Don’t pressure or judge them because that’s just uncool.
- Record your lectures: The likelihood is that your lectures will be recorded on panopto (oh the lucky youth of today!) but if they’re not record them on your phone and laptop, you’ll be thankful when January comes around and you can’t recall any of October. Don’t forget to ask for permission first and check the College’s policy on lecture recordings.
- Don’t wear your best shoes: They will get trashed. Go to Primark and buy some night out shoes, your future self will thank you. As will your bank account.
- Don’t be a D**k: This point is self explanatory. Don’t damage property, don’t get in fights, don’t poo in the kitchen sink. The latter really did happen when I was a fresher, it was seriously grim.
- Buy more pants: This is not a joke, get yourself to Primark and buy knickers galore. There is nothing worse than waking up and realising that you have no clean undies. I have enough pairs to see me through 3 months and I reckon I could still invest in more.
- Register your Oyster: This allows you to add your 16-25 railcard, giving you a 1/3 off travel. It also protects you against theft and allows you to use auto top up. People aren't keen on auto top up but it's honestly worth it if you don't have a travel card: you'll never end up stranded with a creditless oyster at 3am. You have to top up in large amounts (£20) but it doesn't expire and will encourage you not to get that uber so you might actually save money in the long run.
- Have fun: Don’t take yourself too seriously, explore new opportunities, speak to people, join clubs and societies, don’t go to the library and don’t expect to be the best. You’ll probably do badly in your first assignment and that is totally okay. Concentrate on enjoying yourself and making friends, there is plenty of time for academics later. I flunked my first assignment and left out a section of my first exam, yet I’m still be graduating with first! If you’re happy and socially engaged you’ll study better. Work hard and play harder!
Wow, that is a long list, gold star if you made it to the end! Apologies for sounding like a preachy old person but honestly, I wish I’d have given myself this advice: 18 year old EJ was a hot mess! Now get off t’internet and go have fun, Imperial (and Metric) awaits!
For more information on topics discussed here
Talk To Frank - Advice on drugs
Bish - Advice and education on sex, relationships and consent
Consent is everything - Advice on consent
NHS: Young people and sex - Advice on sexual health and contraception
John Hunter Sexual Health Clinic - Chelsea and Westminster's sexual health clinic
City Mapper - Best app ever. Journey planning
Hail O - Cabwise endorsed cab app
Drink aware - Advice on alcohol
Oyster online - Register your oyster
Welfare Love, EJ xo