As freshers week rolls on, Cameron Scheijde argues that the stereotype surrounding freshers can be damaging and disastrous for the introverted, but finding like minded people is truly rewarding.
Freshers week has a strong stereotype of excessive drinking, aggressive socialising and endless parties but, in spite of appearances, those who don’t partake in said activities do exist and need to be heard.
Really, Freshers is an introvert's nightmare. So many people, getting drunk and being loud for seven days straight. Help?
— Rachel R (@Raccatrap) September 12, 2014
Imagine the scenario: you’re standing in the queue on a mild September evening. The music escapes the small, hot confines of the club and winds its way down the line where a crowd of ecstatic freshers shout in anticipation. You look around and take in the atmosphere, your new group of friends, having only met a few hours ago, seem alien to you. The noise from the street, the club and the people surrounding you, is deafening. With no alcohol in your system to soften the blow of being thrust into such unfamiliar surroundings, your body goes tight. Everything seems imposingly loud, frightening and unknown. You tap one of your new acquaintances on the shoulder and yell “this isn’t for me, I’m going home, have a good evening”. You trundle home in the cold, terrifying surroundings to the comfort of your room, and lock the door.
‘Freshers was… the most turbulent, difficult, brilliant and exhilarating time of my life: and I spent most of it in bed by 11pm’
That was me, first night of freshers week, 2016. Here I am a year later and I’m pleased to report, dear reader, that I didn’t quit there and then, though I cannot deny I was tempted. Despite the somewhat tentative and terrifying beginnings, last year was the best of my life – and I write this article as an introvert who drinks very little and despises (with a vehement passion) nightclubs. Freshers was, for me, the most turbulent, difficult, brilliant and exhilarating time of my life: and I spent most of it in bed by 11pm. The difference? A group of friends who respected my introversion and allowed me to be who I wanted to be.
‘There is nothing worse than being forced to drink, or forced to get drunk, in order to gain social ‘acceptance’.’
For the introverted among us, the culture and stereotype surrounding freshers and ‘Uni life’ in general can seem even worse than having to ask a stranger for directions. It is everything an introvert is not: loud, alcohol fuelled and aggressively sociable. This is a stereotype that can make the introvert’s student experience overwhelming and distressing and, though our generation apparently drink less than our predecessors, it can shape the rest of the University experience. In my opinion, there is nothing worse than being forced to drink, or forced to get drunk, in order to gain social ‘acceptance’.
— Flick Beaumont (@flickbeaumont) September 14, 2016
To be faced with the choice of drinking or social exclusion is an extremely difficult scenario to find yourself in. So to those who do see alcohol as to be all and end all of freshers – don’t force those who don’t. As a small fish in the ocean of a new city it’s hard to stick to your guns, but be true to what you want out of freshers.
‘Uni is great for being the place where you can find people who have a similar aversion to club music and strong spirits’
It is not all bad – and if you are reading this thinking “that first paragraph sounds like my experience”, I would like to offer assurance. Assurance that clubbing is not the be all and end all of freshers week. The Student Union’s programme of day time and evening events is fantastic and a great way of meeting people whose lives don’t revolve around Lola Lo’s and a bottle of Vodka. Those people are fun too, as long as they let you wave goodbye at pre-drinks.
I was lucky to have the ability to shape a freshers week that worked for me, rather than adhering to the societal expectations of what freshers “should” be or plodding along with everyone else. Uni is great for being the place where you can find people who have a similar aversion to club music and strong spirits (in all senses of the word). In general, look for the people who, like you, are sitting in the corner of the JCR or hiding in their room. I know initiating social contact is unpleasant, but both of you will be so grateful for that first “what’s your name then?”. Who knows, it might be the start of a blossoming friendship. Or you never see them again. But it’s worth a go.
‘There are… many sitting in their rooms getting to know their flatmate with a cup of tea, bonding over favourite books and Netflix series’
Freshers is arduous, and don’t panic if you don’t enjoy it. There are people everywhere, and though those who shout the loudest tend to get heard the most; there are just as many sitting in their rooms getting to know their flatmate with a cup of tea, bonding over favourite books and Netflix series.
The stereotype and culture surrounding Uni is difficult and if you find yourself in the wrong group it can be incredibly traumatic. However, the experience that a student can make is far different from this negative image- you just have to go and look for it.
Stuck for ideas on where to find fun without the clubs? Epigram Living has a definitive guide here.
Are you an introvert at Uni? Have you shared the writer’s experiences? Let us know: comment, or contact us on Facebook or twitter.