Finding Freshers – A Struggle to Fit Within the College Jigsaw

Originally written during this year’s Freshers Week, Eli Dolliver writes about the struggle that may happen at any time during the college experience

Everyone knows that Freshers Week is meant to be a time of great celebration and new beginnings; a time of welcome and adventure for new students. And for a lot of students, it is.

There’s free ice cream, free coffee, free condoms, and free bags of mystery stuff you probably won’t look at. There’s a bouncy castle with blow up sumo suits. There’s clubs and societies with endless options. Join War Gaming and Role Play. Join Skydiving. Do a latin dance class. Join Engineers Without Borders to get a free cup of tea even though you’re doing film studies.

People eating cat food sandwiches, drinking milk through socks, and getting sick in troughs in the amphitheatre for The Iron Stomach. Puppies everywhere for some reason. Going out every night and making friends with new people who you can trick into believing you’re cooler than you are.

Good old Freshers Week.

But this isn’t everyone’s experience of Freshers Week. For a lot of first years who have just moved away for the first time, who are feeling homesick, or even just unsure about their course, it can be a hard and isolated experience; take it from someone who knows.

Last year I moved to Dublin to study English in Trinity. I quickly changed my mind and dropped out, but not before I realised how hard that first week can be. You’re faced with a whole barrage of oppositions, and it can be terrifying.

In adjusting to a new city you have to find your away around, find your own landmarks, and try not to get lost. I met a girl from Laois on Thursday night who got a cab from Hanover Street to Oliver Plunkett, literally a minute long walk. Moving somewhere new is daunting and homesickness can be overwhelming. You miss your dog, you miss your mom, you miss your girlfriend/boyfriend/fish. You’ll even find yourself missing people you hate.

Don’t worry if Freshers Week wasn’t the best week of your life. It isn’t meant to be.

Then comes the issue of making friends, which is almost impossible with lectures so huge you couldn’t find Godzilla in them let alone that nice chick you sat next to on Thursday. Don’t worry if you haven’t made best friends during freshers week, or semester one, or year one for that matter. Even though buying people €3.50 Jagerbombs in Eclipse might seem like a fun and easy way to make friends, it isn’t really healthy or sustainable. It should also be noted, if you make friends with someone in the first week they could turn out to be a serial killer in the second week (or they could hate dogs or something awful). Better safe than sorry.

Finally, there’s getting used to your course which, at the end of the day, is why we’re here. Organising clashing tutorials, or feeling like your degree is wrong for you is the most stressful thing in the world when you’re already missing your friends/mom/girlfriend/boyfriend/fish back home, and simultaneously trying to impress a group of 30 new people. Remember to give yourself time to settle in and know that if it doesn’t work out, it isn’t the end of the world. Here I am a year later, a fresher again at a completely different course, in a completely different university and I couldn’t be happier. It all figures itself out.

It can be overwhelming, I know that. But don’t worry. Best friends aren’t made in Havanas on Monday night while you hold someone’s hair back so they can puke – they’re based on real human connections, like laughing at your lecturers together, hating the same things, and the fact that you both can’t find your sociology tutorials even though it’s week three.

So, don’t worry if you feel lonely or homesick or scared. Chances are, a lot of people feel just like you, even if they act otherwise. Most of all, don’t worry if Freshers Week wasn’t the best week of your life. It isn’t meant to be.

For information on mental health services available in UCC, visit www.collegeroad.ie/welfare/mental-health