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24th October 2023

A fresher’s take on Freshers’ Week

Freshers’ Week didn’t live up to my expectations: is the University out of touch with its students?
A fresher’s take on Freshers’ Week
Photo: Sophie Barbe @ The Mancunion

After A-Level results day, the excitement of heading off to university finally hits. You allow yourself to start thinking about where you will be living, the people you are going to meet, the friends you are going to make. Conversations with friends quickly turn to the subject of Freshers’ Week, leading to anxious debates over how badly you will all catch fresher’s flu, or what events everyone plans to go to. However, I cannot help but feel that Freshers’ Week, or should I say, “Welcome Week”, didn’t live up to my expectations or the excitement of these anticipatory conversations.

I immediately dismissed the first event on the Student Union’s website: Oktoberfest. Not only was it difficult enough to find people who wanted to go, but I do not even drink beer, so buying a ticket seemed pretty pointless to me.

I was more excited for the Freshers’ Fair on Monday 18, but this too proved to be anticlimactic, due to its claustrophobic environment and my own arguably disappointing haul. I was also promised free McDonald’s chips, but the prospect of queuing miles for some soggy and under-salted chips didn’t seem appetising, so I quickly gave up. The queue at the fair’s entrance was just too long for some, stretching down Oxford Road. I know some people who, after hearing the unenthusiastic feedback from those who attended, chose to simply skip the fair.

Long queues for the Clubs and Societies Fairs in the following days were also discouraging. I overheard the words “not worth it” uttered in advice to those who could not make up their mind about whether to attend. It seemed the fairs mostly comprised of society leaders heckling students to follow their society on Instagram. Instead, I know a few people who chose to miss the fair and join societies online, especially as most of the information could be obtained by a quick search on Instagram anyway.

The first Union-commissioned event I decided to attend was Bingo Lingo at the Manchester Academy. Whilst it was admittedly fun, in retrospect, there were elements of the night that were simply shocking. It was certainly an “unforgettable night”, full of innuendos which seemed over rehearsed and all too predictable. There was also rather less subtle on-stage re-enactments of ’69-ing’ every time the number was called, which seemed a far cry from a game whose most regular players are usually over the age of 60.

Contestants had to compete for prizes by participating in ‘twerk offs’ and ‘sexy dance-offs’, which become far more uncomfortable in the presence of a middle-aged DJ and two “hosts” (essential twenty-something year-old men in wigs and short dresses) who joined in the on-stage “battles”. At one point, the DJ labelled the event “non-pc” (never a good sign) and encouraged the audience to call him a “fat w*nker” after he had removed his top. While some students joined the chant, I was too stunned to even contemplate echoing his request.

The last Union-commissioned event I went to was Foreverland: Dopamine Dreams. The tickets ranged in price from £13 to £23.5. Although the Union didn’t set the price of tickets, such pricing suggests that the external promoter who commissioned the night is out of touch with the reality of students’ finances. This left more tickets available for members of the public to buy, and to my dismay, the venue then felt like it was full of drunk 40-year-olds in tight neon clothing stumbling around. Tired of watching middle-aged couples grinding on each other, I ended up leaving shortly after midnight, fully sober. My £13 could have been better spent elsewhere.

There were, however, other ways to enjoy Freshers’ Week than just the Union-commissioned events, particularly through the notorious freshers activity: clubbing. However, even this was complicated by the decision of which club nights to go to. Freshers were bombarded with leaflets and advertisements for clubs all over Manchester, but these proved hit-or-miss. Some clubs were half-empty, which convinced us to leave the club earlier than expected.

Despite this, there were some more fun clubbing experiences, including an ABBA-themed club night at Manchester Academy 2 which became one of the highlights of my Freshers’ Week.

Academic departments also promised Welcome Week events, but many were cancelled due to lecturer strikes, meaning English Literature students, like myself, only had one day of welcome activities rather than the three originally planned. Whilst I appreciate the reason for the strikes, it was nonetheless frustrating when I was unable to meet my academic advisors, peer mentors, and course mates.  

To top it all off, the University grappled with many timetabling complications and delays. This caused further confusion and chaos among first-years already stressed about meal-planning and how to work the Circuit laundry app.  

It has to be said that Freshers’ Week did not live up to my expectations, and I am still unsure if I fully received the “freshers experience” that I had heard so much about, and which is so highly promoted. Maybe the University should reconsider its events for next year, to put the focus back on its students and what they want, like, and can afford.

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