Freshers is one of the most hotly anticipated events of first year, the big thing to look forward to after the end of compulsory education. Obviously this year it looked quite different, and my experience as a fresher has been coloured with the shade of a pandemic hanging over our heads. Although the news gives a grim cast to the experience, with the ever-present fear of opening an email which tells you to isolate, there have been many positives of being freshers during a pandemic.
The rules on larger groups has definitely created a palpable fear about making friends, but this cloud has the silver lining of meaning that everyone is extremely keen to meet people and they will go out of their way to have a conversation with you. Despite this, meals are difficult in catered accommodation, and you find yourself having to shout over the din of the room to be heard, with a distinct possibility that you’ll never see the person you were talking to again.
I’ve spent a lot of time with my flatmates because of this, and it means that the relationships are accelerated. You feel as though you’ve spanned six months of friendship in about two weeks. There’s a real intensity of feeling – with every emotion heightened – but this leads to the best spontaneous events. Singing drunkenly in the kitchen into the early hours of the morning, and so many drinking games that you can never look at tequila rose again (not that you’d want to in the first place).
This escape to the kitchens has largely come out of a fear of going to the beach after the sun has set, in case we’re told to go home anyway. The bonfires on the beach of early freshers week were abandoned due to the threat of dispersion. This puts a strain on relationships; it’s a small town, with pubs and restaurants booked up for seemingly the next three years, and the prospect of another voluntary lockdown imposing an extreme limit on activities.
Studying online is difficult, especially for a group of people who have not done any compulsory work for almost six months. Getting our brains back in motion is tiring and marginally painful, especially when you’re applying yourself to subjects you’ve never done before. But there is a luxury in being able to watch your lectures at 1.75x speed, pausing and playing to type notes whenever you feel like it, instead of the panicked scribbling more likely to occur in an in-person lecture.
Despite the cases totting up in certain halls, there is an optimism to each day. You never know quite what to expect, but the hours seem to slip away happily. It’s certainly a challenging situation but I can’t imagine the alternative. Hopefully, things will take a turn for the better rather than the worse.