Ok I genuinely thought I had already posted something; I did a very detailed recount of every single thing that happened last week, but that post disappeared. It was at least 4k words, no joke. I’m mad and I’m not going to retype that entire thing. So I’m going to do it in list form of “20 things I never expected before coming to uni”. The title of this post is shortened for stylistic purposes.
1. Themed events during freshers aren’t really what you’d think they are. Prior to coming to Durham, the Freshers organisers sent out a Freshers’ handbook which listed the events that they had planned for that week. ‘Planned’ – there was nothing to plan. On the booklet they listed “Harry Potter Night” “Toga Night” but that’s literally just people dressing up for it, going to a bar and drinking. The first night with the white t-shirt party was fun, but other than that it gets so repetitive and frankly boring because after a while people just hangout in their little groups. There’s no activity; it’s just drinking… which was a bit of a let down. The silent disco was a huge redeeming event though.
2. Clubbing is fun… sometimes. Anyone who knew me back home knows that over the years I’ve somewhat developed a negative attitude towards drinking and clubbing, and that I’m really not the type for it. Surprise! Guess who went clubbing 4 times in the span of last week and enjoyed it (on certain days)? Freshers is just about clubbing to be honest. There’s the themed ‘pre drinks’ mentioned in no. 1, then people go out. And essentially that’s the only way to socialise (they’ll tell you otherwise but it’s true). I went for the first time and it was shocking… to say the least. I realised that I only truly enjoyed it and put myself out there when I was with my group of friends. Clubbing is about the company; especially if you’re like me and really not looking to throw myself at random shirtless (why the hell were they even shirtless) guys for a hookup. It was hilarious watching my other friends with random guys though and linking arms to get through the absolute nightmare that is Klute. I didn’t expect myself to enjoy it as much as I did. But nonetheless, not something I would do on a daily basis. I still get that feeling of anxiousness before I go out (people have told me that’s what the pre’s are for). Thankfully, because yours truly looks like a 5 year old compared to the British, blond and tall girls, I didn’t have the same appeal and never attracted the attention of sleazy guys.
3. Everyone is actually smart. I don’t know what I was thinking but this was something that I didn’t expect. I thought there’d be a mixture of different people but nooo, everyone is smart. Everyone worked so hard for their place here and you can tell from the way they talk to you and how well spoken A LOT of them are. We were filling in a form for our college mentor and you’re supposed to write down your grades you got that earned your place in Uni and I was so ashamed. I took a peek at everyone’s but I didn’t need to because no one was hiding their grades….because they all got at least 3 As. The norm was for people to get at least 2A*s actually. It hit me because I was sitting the midst of some of the smartest people I will ever meet and here I was with my subpar IB grade, a near miss at that and I felt so undeserving but also so much more motivated to do well.
4. Not everyone is grown up and mature, unfortunately. In a first year cohort of about 360 people, give or take, you’d think oh it’s a given that some people would be idiots and racists. Nah, I genuinely thought people would be grown up because everyone is 18 or older, and would probably be more mature. Nope. I’ve encountered a few of those archetypal burly, British guys who’ve mocked me just because I was wearing a more conservative dress (it really wasn’t, it was a simple black dress and tights) or ignored me (maybe because I don’t look like those tall skinny blonde girls) by the way I look. Annoying. You’d think that to earn a place in a school like Durham they’d be more mature, open minded, but nope. Some still lack brains. It’s sad; it really affected me when it happened but I refused to let a few degenerates ruin my night. Plus, because the college is so large, avoiding them is easy.
5. Food is decent. Honestly. We have a choice of about 3-5 main courses, a wide variety of side dishes, soup and salad. There’s a different type of potato each day (which is so weird you’d think they’d run out of ideas but it just keeps coming). The food is cooked well and tastes good if you choose the right course. But it’s definitely a surprise because most people say they don’t like college food. Or maybe I’m just revelling in the novelty of having English lunch and teas (they say tea here instead of dinner) and it’ll wear off and I’ll realise it’s actually revolting. Will update.
6. Lots of societies…but ceebs. At the Freshers fair we were introduced to every single society possible, and I was really pumped to go and join everything. Then this week rolled around and there were taster sessions and socials and I feel like I’d reached my limit for socialising for the rest of my life and I really couldn’t do the whole socialising thing anymore. As a result, I missed quite a few opportunities because of ‘ceebs’. I did end up joining the college climbing club (bouldering), Palatinate (the newspaper), the hillwalking society, the astronomy society and the singapore society. I’m sure there are more but it’s not like there’s a deadline. Really excited though, but you’ll find that the ceebs will hit you when it comes time to actually join. P.s. My arms still hurt from my first bouldering session. I literally couldn’t push myself out of bed the day after it.
7. Cheaper than you’d think. I’m thinking this point through and I realised it’s because of Brexit. Thank you to everyone who voted for it (although I’m probably offending a lot of Brits right now), my school fees and daily spending has lowered significantly.
8. Small talk is annoying. “So what’s your major?” “Physics, and you?” “Oh, English. Which college are you from?” “Cuths, and you?” “Same, because we’re at a Cuths event!” “Oh, ha ha! Right!” “Where are you from?” “I’m from here, London, actually!” “Oh, I’m Singapore but I live in Hong Kong!” “Oh that’s cool!” *Silence, for a good minute before someone says “I should go find my friends, nice meeting you!”*. I did not think this part through when I was worrying over Uni. It gets so repetitive and annoying you just kinda want to stop but you can’t because you’re supposed to meet everyone. The result is you just feel so empty at the end of the day because you realise you haven’t really met a friend; you’ve just basically introduced yourself to over 100 people and not made a solid connection. It’s sad.
9. Lots of walking. All. The. Time. Durham’s a small town, I knew that. It’s small enough to walk everywhere. But you kind of don’t want to most of the time. Walking from my part of the college to the dining hall takes 15 minutes. And it’s tiring. It’s really hilly, the cobblestones are annoying and when it rains it sucks. Did not expect this… my jeans better be a lot looser when I come back to Hong Kong.
10. People drink to have fun, but also because it keeps you warm. It dawned on me quite early on that people never go clubbing with a coat even though it’s 9 degrees out and throughout the night it’ll drop to 6. That’s because people here drink a lot, all the time, so much that you’ll see people walking home at 3am in tank tops when it’s 4 degrees outside. I never drank often, but whenever I go out now I make it a point to drink something because it’s absolutely freezing at night and I don’t want to walk home for 10 minutes shivering like a wet dog.
11. Less homesick than I thought I’d be. Oddly, before coming to Durham it worried me that some nights I’ll be super cold and lonely and I’ll find myself feeling really homesick. But that hasn’t happened because I’ve been so occupied… it’ll hit when it settles down I think.
12. It’s quite difficult to make friends. Being in the same school with the same people for 14 years doesn’t exactly gives us much room to practice our friend making skills. And damn, it’s difficult. You have to be brave enough to make the first move to ask for someone’s name, or ask if you can go out with a group, but also not too clingy that you constantly ask if you can hangout with them and you have to be able to read whether or not they actually like having you around. So stressful.
13. Most people feel like freshers is overrated. Everyone has mentioned that “freshers is going to be the best week of your life!” and it’s going to be so amazing you’ll make so many memories! Uh, no. Everyone I’ve talked to throughout the week has said that freshers is a bit lacking as the only social events is clubbing and nothing in the day. It’s a bit aimless, very disorganised and definitely did not live up to the hype. Everyone was basically recharging, nursing hangovers and all during the day, and at night everyone got drunk and hooked up with anything that moved. I thought I was the only one but everyone felt the same way. It’s just… meh.
14. You can buy most things here. This is stupid because I am stupid. I made a list, thought I had to buy everything from home (thankfully wasn’t organised enough to, but did manage to pile up a lot of things to bring here), found out that you can buy everything you needed here for very cheap. I feel so stupid honestly but note to everyone who’s planning on studying abroad, don’t worry about leaving anything at home, you can probably get it where you’re going. Unless it’s a rice cooker.
15. People aren’t as ignorant as I thought. I was on my way to lunch the other day and I met up with this guy to go over to the dining hall. We did small talk, he asked me where I’m from, I said Hong Kong. He almost let slip “Oh that’s somewhere in China right?” and I was like “Yeah, definitely don’t say that to people who’re from Hong Kong.” He said he’s sorry he’s a bit ignorant but wanted to know more and why Hong Kong people don’t like identifying with China. So I literally gave him a 15 minute history lesson from the Opium Wars all the way to Occupy Central (trying to remember every detail from history lessons) and was pleasantly surprised he was actually interested. It gave me a tiny bit of hope that they aren’t all ignorant and close-minded.
16. You can definitely identify archetypes from chick lit/high school novels. I admit, I’ve been in the SIS bubble for 14 years of my life. An international school that isn’t really international. So seeing the type of guys you’d imagine in novels in packs with rugby gear, or girls that are stick thin and wears short, strapless dresses in 9 degree weather was kind of new for me. Intimidating, too. I was so aware of the fact that I’m Asian. It got to my head quite a bit because I constantly felt like I was being judged because I was Asian. It also didn’t help that Durham’s kind of lacking in the diversity department (as compared to other unis in the US or some in the UK). After a while though, I just felt “screw it” and pushed that self-created feeling of racism and discrimination out of my head and understood that the entire experience was what I made it out to be. I could spend most of my time worrying that people didn’t like me because I was Chinese, but I could also spend it putting myself out there, interacting and socialising who I wanted irrespective of what their ethnicity was.
17. People can sleep at 4 and still wake up for their 9 am. That work hard and play hard concept amazes me. But when it’s 10am at a lecture and everyone sounds like they’re suffocating because of how much they’ve coughed in the past hour… dude, just stay home one night and come to lectures without a cough, maybe? Still, lots of respect and admiration. That’s my ultimate goal right there except I can’t be bothered with the play really hard bit.
18. 168cm is tiny. You’d think being 168cm is a decent height, and it is in Hong Kong, but 172cm here is normal. I’m bloody tiny here. It became really obvious when it was the white tshirt party and I had to sign people’s shirts. Some had to bend down to sign the front, but I was already at their chest level so there was no need. Geez.
19. College families are different for everyone. In most Unis there’s a system called college families where people can propose to their friend and they’ll have first years as their children. I met my college parents and brothers last sunday and they were all really nice. The bizarre part of this is that my family are a selection of people I would’ve never actively met or hung out with otherwise. I was the only Asian – a weird twist in genetics. My mom did the same major as me, and my two brothers did natural sciences or physics/maths I forgot. It was fun as my mom brought us to Klute and my two brothers were already super drunk. Up till this point, I don’t think any of my brothers recognise me (I’ve seen them once or twice after Sunday but it’s like they’ve never seen me before) because of how drunk they were. It’s funny. I don’t really get how this system is going to work but I guess it’s ‘for the bants’ when you can say “my mom brought me to Klute and asked me if I had hooked up with anyone”. Some other college families had ‘initiation’ where they duct taped a bottle of cider to their children’s hands and basically forced them to drink. Thankfully mine were nicer. Others had a night in and played heads up. But I think a lot of parents just brought their children to Klute. It was a really nice night.
20.FOMO is a thing, but… You won’t be completely antisocial if you don’t go to this event or that taster session. I just kept telling myself that if there were people that are meant to be in my life and that I’m meant to meet, I’ll meet them. Whether it’s today, tomorrow, next week or next year, somehow I’ll meet them, and missing a social even is not gonna kill me and ruin the chances of meeting that person. I changed my mind last minute about not going to loveshack and ended up hanging out with a group of people that I absolutely adore now and I consider as friends (hopefully, good friends in the future). Things will work out in the end and FOMO shouldn’t consume me. I was wayyyy too worried about that before.
So. Freshers has been ok, not the best, but still enjoyable. I’ve met a lot of people, but there’s definitely a group that I continue to hangout with on a daily basis and I take advantage of the fact that I’m on the meal package to meet other people in the canteen. There are people that I love, others not so much, but it’s been such a good experience. I love every bit of it and I love Durham it’s so beautiful (the leaves are changing now!!). As for relationships and dating, I’m seriously not looking for that at all. I’m more than ok with admiring from afar as of this moment. 😉