The Student
Three sisters pub packed with people dancing
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Refresher: a second-year’s experience in Freshers’ Week
by Cera Gemmell, 5/10/21

“Are you a first- or second year?” were the words I heard most often during Freshers’ Week. Any other year, this may have been a strange question – wasn’t Freshers’ Week a first-year experience? It was the rite of passage for new university students. But this year, there were hundreds of second-years descending on the Welcome Week events. After the 2020 Zoom Freshers’, I and many others were ready for some social interaction!

Freshers’ week didn’t kick off for me until Wednesday. Ill-timed work shifts meant that I missed the first couple of days, but most of the mandatory events were streamed online. What struck me was the volume of activities available – from snowboarding to baking, poetry and rock-climbing. I decided to take a slow start to the week with yoga in the Meadows, accompanied by two of my flatmates. It was a warm day and I relaxed into the session, bending and stretching on the grass. I had hoped to meet some new people, but everybody left pretty sharply at the end of the lesson. However, it was enough to convince me to book myself in for more yoga sessions!

After a leisurely start, my week began to pick up with an introductory gym session on Thursday morning. It was an opportunity to meet some other runners from Edinburgh, and set me up well for the day. It was a sporty 24 hours, with a tour of Peffermill that afternoon and my first pub crawl with the running club in the evening! It was an exciting prospect, but as the meeting time drew closer I found myself becoming nervous. This would be my first in-person social event at University and I felt overwhelmed at the prospect of being surrounded by so many new people. 

As I entered the pub, I felt that my fears had been well-founded. I realised that I didn’t know many of the people there, and those that I did know seemed to be engaged in conversations already. I quietly ordered a lemonade (I’m an alcohol-free gal!), and began to mingle. After the first few tense minutes, the evening improved as I began to chat to other new freshers. As we moved on to the second pub, I had found my groove and what had started as an anxious night ended with a couple of new friends!

The running pub crawl was swiftly followed by a ‘hangover’ 5k on Friday morning. This was an environment in which I felt more comfortable, and I found myself happily jogging around the Meadows, catching up with faces old and new. Afterwards, I was able to impart some second-year wisdom by leading the way to one of my favourite cafés for coffee and cake!  I felt satisfied as I returned home, tired but happy. Although my main sport is running, I wanted to try and meet some people from different areas of the University, so I decided to sign up for the climbing taster session and an online pub quiz that afternoon. All I can say about climbing is: ‘Ow!’ and ‘Wow!’ It was an incredible experience and most certainly one that I will repeat, although the arm pain the next day was quite something! A chilled-out online pub quiz was just what I needed to end a hectic freshers’ week.

Now, as I reflect upon the week, I realise that it wasn’t quite as I expected. I didn’t envision feeling so overwhelmed around crowds and new social events – although I suspect that I am not alone with this sentiment. Starting university (particularly during a pandemic) is a scary experience, and personally I feel that I am only just beginning my real ‘edi uni’ journey now. Hopefully it will be a good one!

Image via The Three Sisters