I’ve only been in London for a month, but so far, this has been the best month of my life. I’ve seen Big Ben and St. Pauls, drank coffee at cute little fair-trade cafés and went thrifting at Brick Lane market. I’ve enjoyed a show in the famous West End, visited the queen (and my future husband, Prince Harry) at Buckingham Palace and ridden on the top of a double decker bus. I’ve updated my wardrobe to be more chic and I’ve started casually incorporating the words flat and posh into my daily vocabulary.
I’ve also spent a lot of money on alcohol, and for that I blame Freshers Week.
Freshers Week is basically an entire week set aside for partying. Yes, you read that correctly, partying. Technically, it’s the first week of the semester, or in my case, the week in which all the first year students arrive (“the freshers” as they’re affectionately referred to) for orientation. The days are filled with endless assemblies and icebreakers, which is pretty typical for the first week of college. The nights, however, are filled with drunken 18 year-olds shouting lyrics to old English drinking songs and stumbling home from the pub. And it’s not like everyone decides to go out and get trashed at the same place, though that does happen. Most of the time, the Student Union and Orientation Committee actually plan these events, making it hard to believe that the university basically hands out invitations to get shitfaced to incoming students. Pub crawls, mixers at the student bar, secret clubs, concerts…all of these events are part of the “freshers” package. And by package, I mean a whole fortnight jam packed with orientation parties that we would never, ever have in the States since all of them involve getting wasted on £2 Jack and Cokes.
This probably sounds like a dream to any young adult out there (especially if you’re under 21 like I am) and let me tell you, it is. Meeting people is so much easier with a little liquor in your system and what better way to get to know your peers than passing around a cheap bottle of wine? Drinking games and power hours bring people together more than any lame icebreaker circle ever could.
If I were smart, I’d let all the youngins go about their drunken hazey business. After all, I should have gotten all of the clubbing and drinking out of my system two years ago during my freshman year of college. It’s a rite of passage and all of that stuff; puking in the bushes behind a sketchy frat is how you go from being a girl to a woman. However, I never had that opportunity since my college is extremely tiny and has no fraternities or sororities. Maybe it was because I never ran with the “in” crowd or maybe it’s because I watched one too many episodes of the tragically under-appreciated Greek, but the few parties I’ve been to at university sucked so majorly that I left after an hour.
So here I am, in London of all places, getting the opportunity to redo an entire semester of my life. It’s not even the partying and the boozing that makes this whole situation a little strange. It’s being surrounded by anxious teenagers who are away from home for, arguably, the first time in their lives. They have such high energy and enthusiasm for everything that it quickly becomes infectious. When some kid with a giant megaphone started a fresher’s chant, I joined right in even though I’m technically a junior and would be a third year here. The freshers are also crazily rambunctious. Since they don’t have the watchful eyes of their parents over them at all times, that means they can go nuts and nobody will stop them. I was like this, too, but my idea of going wild was eating ice cream for breakfast and staying up until five in the morning. That’s child’s play compared to these kids. I spent one of my first nights here in a kitchen no bigger than jail cell surrounded by fifty people all daring each other to do things. One person was chugging unidentifiable drinks left and right. Another was hanging a sock over the fire alarm so that they could smoke cigarettes inside and not have to worry about a pesky fire drill. Another kid took a fire extinguisher off the wall and started spraying everyone and the best part was, everyone loved it! They all thought it was some type of foam from the gods. It was like a bunch of zoo animals broke out of their cages and threw a kegger. It was intense and insane and probably illegal, but it was also hilarious and fun and exciting.
Back in the States, I scoff in disgust at a vast majority of the freshman for no reason other than the fact that they’re the lowest on the hierarchical food chain. We’ve all been the bottom rung on the ladder and we’ve all felt that sense of accomplishment when we bop bop bopped to the top. The fact that I willingly knocked myself down a few steps and am actually enjoying it is mind boggling to me.
After all, I’m living in a dorm. Up until two weeks ago, I had no idea where any of my classes were and my number one fear at the moment is that I’m not going to make any friends. I basically have to infiltrate a group of people who’ve known each other for years and make them like me. I’ve even fallen victim to the cursed “fresher’s flu”, which is eerily similar to a cold I had my first month of my freshman year. Headaches, runny noses, sore throats…I’m not even a freshman and I’m still popping cough drops like an addict. It feels like my mind has been transported back to two years ago when I was a very different person on a very different campus; as if the last two years of my life haven’t existed at all and I’m fresh out of high school, ready to take on a whole new world of university. I don’t know any of my professors, I don’t understand the grading system and I’m not prepared whatsoever to handle the workload that comes along with my classes. The same thoughts and anxieties that I had two years ago are coming back full force, yet I’m still having a blast.
Despite the fact that I’m anxious and nervous and a little bit afraid, I’m actually glad I’m a “freshman” again. I may spend way too much money on booze and cover charges and I still find myself thinking I’m not smart enough to talk in class, but this whole do-over experience has been amazing. It would be a waste of my time if I didn’t embrace it. Who ever gets the chance to experience something twice? Not many people, and I’m certainly not going to take it for granted. After all, who wants to spend the next two months bitching about the annoying kiddos who drink a little too much and have no personal boundaries? I surely don’t, and like they say, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Besides, it’s only temporary. When I finally get over the whole partying, pub crawlin’ scene (which I know I inevitably will), I know that I’ll still have Arcadia – my tiny little campus – to return home to.