Although we like to pretend that freshers’ week is a time to get through all that fascinating further reading you’ll need for your first lecture, socialise moderately and cheerfully with your new flatmates, and carefully draw up a budget for your sacred student loan (none of which will be spent on clothes, because, what, are we here to workshop our style identities or to study?!), it’s actually a surreal and raucous week of gratuitous drinking and questionable eating habits with a group of people you barely know. Expect more of the same for the months which follow. Student Frances Lowe made it through her first year, and now she’s on hand to share her experiences to make sure you don’t make the same mistakes she did.
1. LOAN + SHOPS = BANKRUPTCY
It’s a risky business going into town on the day you receive your student loan. Especially in January when the sales are on. If you’re anything like me, you will check your bank balance, squeal excitedly at its miraculous growth from two to four figures, and experience an uncontrollable urge to spend it on absolutely anything that you can hold/wear/eat. But please remember that rent, vodka and food allowance (in that order) are your utmost priorities, and think twice before you blow all that new cash on an overpriced t-shirt, or a £20 scented candle, or a gilet, or whatever it is that floats your boat.
2. YOU DO NOT WRITE WELL WHEN DRUNK
Too many times now I have stumbled home from nights out, made some toast, settled down a bit, and suddenly decided that it’s the perfect time to begin that 2000 word essay. Although the wine may have you feeling so intellectual and literary that you could be the lovechild of Plato and Ernest Hemmingway, at some point you will, inevitably, pass out. Always ensure you edit your drunken writing. No tutor wants to read some inane chatter about the quality of the night’s DJ mid-paragraph, which you, in your inebriated state, decided would go really well as a counter-argument to Althusser’s take on Marxism.
3. TIMEPIECE WILL NEVER BE ‘CASUAL’
It is impossible to walk into Timepiece and not feel instantly compelled to get outrageously, inappropriately drunk. I remember one fateful Friday night (or, more to the point, I don’t remember), when I went out despite a 7 o’clock shift the following morning, when I decided to go to Timepiece ‘casually’. Just couple of drinks, I said. Just a couple. I woke up the next morning, miraculously in my own bed, knowing nothing of how I got there. Safe to say, it was an interesting morning at work. My moral here is not to avoid Timepiece, but not to expect to be able to walk the following morning.
4. ALWAYS PUT SHEETS ON YOUR BED BEFORE A NIGHT OUT
Clean or otherwise, just make sure they’re there. There is nothing worse than coming back from a night out, kebab-in-hand, to remember that you couldn’t be bothered to make your bed that afternoon. This situation becomes farcical if you bring someone back with you. Furthermore, make sure you haven’t left clothes all over your bed waiting to be put away. I’ve learnt the hard way that it’s very, very difficult to look sexy while frantically picking up socks and hissing, “I told you we should have gone back to your place”.
5. THAT PAIN IN YOUR ABDOMEN MIGHT BE APPENDICITIS
Just me? Okay. But on a serious note, it’s alright to get ill once in a while. Phone your parents, whine at them for a bit, and basically use it as an excuse to be a stereotypical student for a while. That is, laze around, eat loaves and loaves-worth of toast and drink tea in copious amounts until you’ve perked up a bit. Don’t worry about missing lectures – most of them are recorded anyway, and let’s face it, would you really have gone to that 9 o’clock anyway? – and don’t panic. Well, you can panic just a little as you’re being loaded into an ambulance and wheeled into surgery. Or did that only happen to me?
6. NEVER BUY CHEAP MEAT
This is one of my aunt’s favourite pieces of advice. She is, it turns out, absolutely right. We all remember the horsemeat scandal, and what did that teach us? If the bargain meat deal looks too good to be true, then it probably is. Neigh. And more to the point, although this could be due to a certain friend’s cooking ability, I remember all too well the fallout froma ‘dinner party’ which had me crouched over a toilet bowl for the best part of a day. However, refer back to the previous point: it’s okay to get ill. And, for the record, sickness related to food poisoning does not count on any chunder-chart system your flatmates might have in place.
7. BOOK A SEAT ON YOUR TRAIN HOME
You might think this one is a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to forget about it. One too many times I have had to stand up all the way to London, armed with a suitcase big enough to house a family of five. This is even worse when you’re filled with end-of-term blues, a medically recognised condition which makes everything seem ten times sadder and more irritating than it really is. Get your seat early. Make some other fool stand and smack innocent co-passengers in the face with their suitcase as they stumble through the crowded aisles.
8. YOU WILL NOT FIND TRUE LOVE IN THE LEMMY
That said, there is nothing wrong with trying. Perhaps you’ll be a miraculous exception to the rule and meet the love of your life while spinning your shirt around your head to the Baywatch theme. You could even bond over jam sandwiches afterwards (thanks, Christian Union). But please don’t cling to this vision of extraordinary optimism. By all means prowl for a little carnal relief in the Lemmy, but try not to feel broken-hearted when you see your conquest in there a week later using the exact same tricks they employed to pick you up on someone else. It happens. Now down some tequila and dance to some 2008 chart hits.
9. YOU CAN SURVIVE OFF TOAST FOR SURPRISINGLY LONG
This is especially relevant during exam season: I fondly remember that I ate nothing but breakfast food for a fortnight. Essentially, as long as there is bread, there is hope. You can put anything on toast. Chilli con carne on toast, for example, works excellently. As do chicken nugget toasties. Bread is a staple food, and with Sainsbury’s Basics wholemeal coming in at a wonderful 50p a loaf, I don’t think any of us have an excuse. Unless you’re gluten intolerant, in which case, I’m sorry, but I can’t help you.
10. YOUR MOTHER IS RIGHT ABOUT EVERYTHING
As much as it pains me to admit it, it is true. She knows everything. How do they do it? How do these mothering types get to be so wise? They know whether I can put that shirt in the wash alongside those jeans; they know what to do when that prick from Arena is being, well, a bit of a prick. How does growing a small human in your womb make you endlessly more knowledgeable? I’ve got no idea how to make a Béarnaise sauce, and I don’t think I’ve ever ironed a pair of trousers. My mum could do both of these things at once. So remember: if, during your freshers’ escapades you stumble across a dilemma which can’t be solved by this handy list (which, let’s face it, is pretty unlikely), get a parent or guardian on the case and all your problems will be over.
So, having exhausted my supply of wisdom, I wish you well. Above all, remember this: first year doesn’t count towards your final grade. #YOFO. You’re only fresh once. It’s only a matter of time before you reach your sell-by date, so make the most of first year while you can.