As I pack my life into boxes and suitcases once again, I can't help but reflect on my first year of university, especially as I find photos and mementos from this last year. A few of my friends took a year out and are preparing for their first year now, making me feel like a veteran and mentally (and physically) preparing them for Fresher's Week.
As someone who, a year ago, would seize up in fear and anxiety at the idea of going to a nightclub with a load of people I don't know, Fresher's Week (or fortnight as it is at Bournemouth) was a little different for me. I tried to go out the first main night of the fortnight. I went to pre-drinks (essentially when most of the drinking happens while socialising until it is an acceptable time to go to the club i.e. like 11pm/12am) which was really nice, meeting a few people in my halls including two girls that I'm moving in with this year! Things were looking up, although I felt entirely overdressed, my evenings out normally involving going for dinner or up to London. I also made the vital mistake and brought a bag with me because I was wearing a skirt (top tip: bags + club = annoying). I joined my flatmates to walk to the Old Fire Station, Bournemouth's Student Union nightclub. Some people went ahead because they paid for wristbands while I got the freebie one. I was standing in the queue with one of my new flatmates, who I had known a mere 24 hours at the point, who was also on the borderline 'I won't remember this' drunk, surrounded by people who I had no idea in hell who they were but they all looked really happy, really comfortable, really attractive - like they were at home. Me? I felt as far from that as humanly possible. I was so out of my comfort zone and felt this fear seeping into me like I felt when I first went to house parties or when someone approaches me in the street. I just felt like I needed to get out of there, there were too many people, too much noise, too many lights. I just wasn't ready for this yet.
So I left. I left my drunk flatmate in the queue (I still feel bad, I *think* he has forgiven me now), I left behind the other two flatmates who were already inside and I just walked around the corner to my halls and left. I have some regrets for doing that, but in all honesty, I really wasn't ready or comfortable in that situation and needed a way out. When I got home, I expected the other two flatmates I left behind to have gone to bed, found some other friends, just enjoying themselves without me, thinking I was the type that wanted to go out all the time. However, I found them on their laptops in our kitchen having a chat and bonding. I walked in and they looked so surprised, I just explained I needed to get out of there and they nodded knowingly and told me to join them. I felt comfortable at last.
That was pretty much my only example of going out in Fresher's Week. We went out again a week later for one of my flatmate's birthday, but it was a Saturday (worse day to go) and in a club where we all agreed was not the best place ever. So how did I spend my evenings in Freshers?
Mostly playing card games, bonding with my new friends and flatmates, watching films and just generally getting to know each other. In some ways I wish I went out more, but I wasn't ready and I'm glad I didn't.
By the second semester I was ready however, and had some of the best nights in various clubs in Bournemouth or at flat parties. I still know my limits and I would so much rather sit at home, under a duvet watching a film with some of my favourite people or spend the money you spend on alcohol on a dinner out at a nice restaurant.
I guess I'm saying that although everyone is different, it's okay not to go out. You will find someone who also doesn't want to. The best thing about university is that everyone accepts each other whether you're a geek, straight, gay, a karate king - whatever. No-one cares. I found two people on my doorstep who didn't want to go out all the time, however, friends have found ones next door, over the road or on their course. Even if all your flatmates want to go out all the time, as long as they accept that you don't want to necessarily, that's fine. And anyway, after the first month, everyone has too big a hangover to go out every day, so that hardly happens despite student stereotypes.
(I started writing about my first year and it sort of turned into a rant about Freshers...)