For many students hoping to progress to third-level education, freshers’ week is a beacon of hope amid the stress and panic of the leaving certificate. In a year characterised by many hours of study, declining social invitations and inevitable breakdowns, the promise of starting university is what makes all the pain worthwhile. In particular, freshers’ week, often propagated as “the best week of your life”, sounds like the sort of sinful version of heaven sixth-year students dream up while slogging through those dreaded sraith pictiúir or Shakespeare quotes: a full week where partying, drinking and socialising are not only tolerated, but encouraged.
But amid the wristbands and pre-drinks and naggins, there lies a reality that those Facebook promo posts fail to tell you: freshers’ week probably won’t be the best week of your life. And that’s okay.
Commencing university marks a huge change for virtually every student. From the academic content and structure to the newfound independence, to the various challenges involved in moving away from home or commuting, the first few weeks of college can be an overwhelming blur of new faces, new emotions and new experiences.
For students who are the only one from their secondary school coming to Trinity, freshers’ week can be a lonely time that is equally filled with the pressure and urgency to make a group of friends as quickly as possible. And for students who are beginning at the same university as their close friends, freshers’ week presents a unique challenge in striking the balance between spending time with their old friends and making new ones. This equilibrium can be particularly difficult to navigate – no one wants to have their secondary school friends to remain their sole companions for college, but at the same time don’t want to run the risk of losing them by not spending enough time with them.
Students who don’t drink alcohol or enjoy nightclubs can also struggle. Freshers’ week does admittedly contain a large number of non-alcohol society events, but no matter what, the emphasis does inevitability lie on the drinking and clubbing culture that defines the university experience for many. Even students who enjoy going out may struggle with the sheer quantity of nights out. Drinking and going out with people you’ve just met is effortless for some, but a large number of students will struggle to truly enjoy themselves while they are simultaneously trying to make a good impression, befriend their new flatmates and potentially reinvent their entire identity.
A large number of students will struggle to truly enjoy themselves while they are simultaneously trying to make a good impression, befriend their new flatmates and potentially reinvent their entire identity
But the constant propaganda of having the best week of your life can leave students pressured to go out more than they would like, drink more than they should and convince themselves that they too are having the fresher’s experience they dreamed of, when really they may be struggling with loneliness, homesickness or just trying to fit in.
And that’s why I say that freshers’ week is wasted on freshers. As a returning student, you more than likely will have a friend group who you will enjoy going out with. You will have people you trust to look after you and bring you home if you overdo it. The societies you’re involved with will hold events you will actually attend and enjoy. You know where Harcourt St is and understand that €4 wine is a far more economical choice than vodka. You’re not under the same pressure to have that best week of your life and inadvertently that’s what will make your week even better.
During freshers, you might think your flatmate is far too quiet to ever be your friend, but after a year of corruption you could end up hotboxing her bathroom in Halls together after exams. You might spend half your week with friends from secondary school whom you barely associate with by the time first year finishes. Some people are lucky enough to bond instantly with their new friends during freshers’ week, but realistically for most people, their real friends will be made over a cup of tea at midnight or during a stress-fuelled evening to finish an assignment together.
Maybe this will be the best week of your life. But more likely than not, it will be merely fine
So this freshers’ week, I say to all the incoming students: maybe this will be the best week of your life. But more likely than not, it will be merely fine – exhausting, exhilarating, emotional but probably not the best. Allow yourself to enjoy the experience without feeling the pressure to have the best time of your life – that’s what Trinity Ball is for.