I’ve finally had my first official proper university freshers day and suffice to say it was just a mixture of emotions. People tell you university is going to be the best time of your life – yeah I don’t doubt it – but when it actually comes down to settling in and throwing yourself out there it’s absolutely terrifying and the whole being in a completely different place with completely different people thing is so jarring and shocking that you might feel homesick, or lonely.
I’m just going to be starting off with talking about today. I’ve actually been here since Tuesday but I’ve been with my parents most of the time so just buying loads of shit to put in my room and spending the most time with them before they leave. (I have to admit it got a bit annoying always having them around but when it comes down to realising that they’re actually leaving tomorrow, I feel a bit nervous and teary eyed). Today’s actually the day that the EU/home students move in; the past few days were just interactions between international students. All the internationals have been absolutely amazing to be with and talk to. Everyone is so friendly and so nice – it doesn’t matter whether or not you drink or you’re outgoing, no one judges and it’s such a wonderful environment to be in.
So today after having lunch with my parents, I walked back to my dorm (I’m at Cuths). Realising that finally, my flatmates have moved in. It’s quite weird because there aren’t any international students in my flat so the past few days staying in the dorm has been kinda lonely and creepy since no one was there except me. But today I met them! I walked in and found Kate and Olivia who’re both from England. They were both so friendly and nice and I found it so comfortable to just strike a conversation. Soon after I met Lucy, who’s from Sweden, Chloe who’s from quite north (so friendly; we bond over how young we both look) and Georgina who’s from Cyprus! It’s such a cool experience living with so many different types of people from all over the world. Because I’m actually inept when it comes to cooking, I’m so lucky that my flatmates all know how to cook.
We just hung around for a bit before we gathered at the front of Brooks House (the main area for the site which I live on) and then the Freps (Freshers Reps) brought us to the Bailey for our dinner. It was freezing (10 degrees) but there were people literally just wearing a t shirt, no jacket… how???? Hopefully I’ll soon adapt to it. But yeah we just walked and I think it was at this point that something in me clicked and I realised “eh, might as well throw my pride out the window and say hi to everyone who isn’t talking to anyone”. Which I did yeah. I figured that there weren’t many asians there, so I tried to put myself in their position and realised that people might find it a bit weird to talk to me… hence why I decided to take the initiative I guess?
After dinner was the white tshirt party. We were given white tshirts upon arrival and what happens is that people go around and write random things on your shirt and it basically forces us to interact. It was absolutely chaotic. The Bailey bar is a decent sized bar, but when you put all the Cuths freshers in it (about 300, we’re one of the largest colleges), everyone was literally, and I’m not exaggerated, squished up against each other. There was no way to move and I realised halfway through that there was no point moving if everyone else did. If I stood in one spot in the middle of the bar long enough the people around me shifted and I found myself pressed up against a bunch of random people. See, by choice I didn’t drink, so I just asked for a cup of water and held it while introducing myself to people. I shamelessly went up to tall, burly, blond and british guys and yelled (over the music, and all the talking) “HI, MY NAME IS VICTORIA, CAN I WRITE ON YOUR SHIRT”. And some of them were taken aback… The thing is there weren’t many asians (I could probably count the number of Chinese on just two hands) so like I refused to be the reserved stereotype and just went for it. Just picture this in your head: short, kiddy looking asian girl looking up at a very tall, burly, blond british guy and introducing herself. Yeah. Bizarre. I’ve never had to do that in all 14 years of SIS, and yet here I am. I don’t regret it though, my shirt looked like this in the end:
I went around and signed my name in Chinese and wrote “你很笨” on some of their shirts and told them that it was my name. They’ll figure it out. It’s kinda weird because they found it so cool when I wrote my name in Chinese and was like “WOW THAT LOOKS SO COMPLICATED” when it’s just every day stuff for us/me in Hong Kong. It’s cool. Quite a lot of them commented that I had an American accent or that I speak English very well. Eh, not really offended with the whole people assuming you can’t speak English thing anymore because I guess in some way or another I understand why they’d think that and I trust they don’t mean to intentionally harm. It’s also quite funny when you’re Chinese and they assume you can’t speak English, and then you tell them you’re actually studying English Literature. Their reactions are cute.
I had this random encounter with a guy. One of the times I was squished against one of them I said “HI I’M VICTORIA” and he was like “hi can I write on your shirt”. At this point he’s probably had quite a lot to drink already. So I was like “yeah sure”. He took my pen, wrote on it and then kept the pen saying “ok so I’ve been trying to steal pens and it hasn’t really worked and you’re the first one”. I was like “why would you do that” and tried to snatch it from him. In the process I almost fell backward (onto a lot of people) and he was like “well you’re drunk already eh” and so I said “I didn’t drink at all” and he was like “wait what you’re sober?” and I said “yeah you say that like it’s a bad thing” and he just stared at me and went “fair enough”. Just… from this I realised that you can make the decision to not drink, but that doesn’t mean you close all the doors to being a social person. Embrace the fact that you’re not into that get super blackout drunk life, and go around and still talk to people. It’s actually hilarious seeing everyone else trying to hold a conversation with you but unable to because they’ve already drunk so much.
After a bit I sat down with a few girls that I’ve met and we just talked about how absolutely exhausted we were, amongst many other things. Randomly ‘Angels’ by Robbie Williams started playing and the Freps suddenly climbed onto tables and chairs and belted it out. But instead of “I’m loving angel’s instead” it was “I’m loving Cuthbert’s instead” which was so nice. Everyone knows this song so we were all just yelling it out and the college spirit was brilliant. In that moment I knew I would love my college.
Then we walked to Jimmy Allens which was a club and if anyone knows me you’d know I’m not (SO not) the clubbing type of person. There were a few others who weren’t too into it as well but like we went in just to check out what it was like. For me in one word, it was jarring. I felt like I was being flung into a completely different universe and I had no idea how to act. I feel like if I’d found my group of friends and gone there I would’ve definitely really enjoyed it. But in that moment I just felt so disoriented and out of place, and on top of that it was super cold (7 degrees). It was uncomfortable. So I found a bunch of people who’d wanted to leave as well and went back to the dorms with them. Clubbing might not be my thing at the moment. Someday I’ll definitely try though. But it did make me feel quite awful. I had to call up my parents and they consoled me a bit and I felt a lot better.
See the thing is… You can watch as many advice videos on youtube about college and how different it could be but it’s not going to properly hit you just how difficult it is to settle in and find your niche until you’re thrown into it. You’re going to realise that there are to be people who are more outgoing, more willing to drink, smoke, do crazy things, and maybe you just don’t like that kind of thing. You don’t like clubbing too much even if you don’t mind a bottle of beer. It’s going to be shocking at first because the culture is so different. But it’s normal and it will take time. You might want to go try new things but there’s no need to force yourself if you’re uncomfortable. Surround yourself with different people. You could be the type that would prefer to go out and have cocktails with your girl friends and talk about life and things rather than going crazy till 3am in the morning. And that’s totally fine. Just remember to embrace the things that you’re comfortable with. And when you accept that you’re more than ok to be different – to not want to drink or party – you’ll realise that you will still be able to interact with those that do. It’s uncomfortable… I know. But it’ll get better especially when Freshers is over. Do what floats your boat and don’t be afraid to embrace it. Also don’t be ashamed to only be hanging out with people who are like you (asians) because so what? You’re comfortable with them, of course it’s okay. This is everything that I’m telling myself. If you ever feel awful skype or call your parents/friends and talk it out. Have a little cry. It feels better. I’m so so so grateful for people like Brian, Ian, Ronald, Val and my parents. Find that happy place to go to when it’s 2am and it’s 4 degrees outside that you will feel comfort and familiarity with.
It’s difficult guys! I know! We all know! We’re experiencing this together!! You’ll be ok, we’ll be ok. We’ll find our group of friends and it’ll get better!!