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Refreshers: Here I Go Again

It’s that time again, when the chaos of Freshers’ Week fades into the swing of a new academic year. New courses, new lectures, and unfamiliar University buildings that you just can’t seem to find 10 minutes before your lecture. Some students might be thrilled that the much-hyped, incredibly daunting Fresher’s Week is finally over – whilst others might be mourning the end of the best week of University.

Freshers’ Week looks a little different for everyone: moving into student accommodation, meeting new people to go out with, scrambling to sign up for courses, navigating the overwhelming bevvy of societies. Whatever your Freshers’ Week looked like, it was probably busy, exciting, and very tiring.

But what about the non-Freshers? Those second, third and fourth years back in Edinburgh, who – lacking the expectations of a fresher – might not know quite what to do with ourselves before classes start. For some, the idea of participating in Fresher’s Week for a second, third or fourth time might be laughable. Even walking through Bristo Square – thronged with gaggles of new students checking out the activity fair, securing their free slices of pizza and being bombarded with leaflets from club promoters – is a daunting task this time of year. I’m sure many would much rather retreat to their homes or new flats, tucked safely away from the pandemonium of campus, gleefully smug that they don’t have to go out seven nights in a row or be asked once again, So what are you studying?

That might’ve been the case in previous years. But for lots of students, their much-anticipated Fresher’s Week was thwarted by COVID restrictions. I’m a second year, and whilst mine was certainly more ‘normal’ than the year before – clubs were open and you were actually allowed out of your flat – it wasn’t necessarily what I was expecting. Large events were still prohibited, many society events and meetings were online, and arrivals at accommodation were staggered, meaning Freshers rocked up in dribs and drabs. Our ‘welcome talk’ was a pre-recorded speech, to be delivered not in the grand McEwan Hall, but streamed into flats and common rooms. Even so, the main feeling I remember from Fresher’s Week was pure exhaustion. And Fresher’s Flu.

So, this year, up in Edinburgh a little early for the start of term without any work to do, I decided to venture into the chaos of Freshers’ Week once again. I grabbed my free tote bag, checked out the various fairs and packed into Teviot House study to enjoy a Film Soc screening. Bristo Square was, of course, just as hectic as I remembered. But this time around, it was a lot less daunting. As it turns out, without the pressure of being a first year, Fresher’s Week feels a lot more chilled.

For first years, the prospect of setting up your University life in one week can be overwhelming. Whether yours was incredibly fun, overwhelmingly stressful or ridiculously tiring, Fresher’s Week is a great week to explore new places, try new things and meet new people – for all years. The thing to remember, whether you’re a real ‘Fresher’ or a fourth-year, is not to expect it to be perfect. Just revel in this strange week designated for enjoying yourself.

Image by Thomas Duckett, submitted as part of the Centre for Research Collections Photography Competition. Used with permission of author.