Freshers’ week is a national con. As your parents abandon you to one of our country’s great institutions (and quite probably not so great halls of residence) it’s hard not to feel betrayed. You’re not ready for this! Sitting in your teeny weeny room wondering if one string of fairy lights is quite enough to compensate for the bottle green carpet (hides all manner of misbehaviour), you also begin to wonder if the fig rolls your grandma bequeathed will last until the Christmas holidays. They’re gonna need to, as you are never coming out.
My saviour to this brown-trousered experience was Imogen. My mother, having deposited me in Lady Mountford’s D Block, was finding the courage for the metaphorical push from the nest, when there was a neat little knock at my door. Stood outside it was a neat girl, all 5 feet of her, peppy, confident, and inviting me to dinner. THIS WAS MY IN. My mum is manically grinning behind the door as I try not to look like someone just chucked a lifebelt at me. The quickest goodbyes are the best. Abrupt and over in a second, there is no possibility of not being profound enough for the moment. As a helpful by-product, anything particularly touching can be drafted and edited in a beautifully put text, with kisses and love heart emojis for emphasis. My mother and I exchanged about 40 texts before I went to bed that night.
I wish I could remember what I wore on my first day. Not because I find my fashion history interesting, but because I’m dying to remember what I wanted people to think about me.
Cue the longest two hours of my life. A gaggle, a gaggle of girls met in the corridor. There were 12 of us, and I am pretty sure I can remember all the answers to the questions that my 18 year-old self thought were the kinds of things one ought to ask in this situation. ‘What A Levels did you do?’ – Riveting.
The ice broken, I quickly identified a chatty, fellow Yorkshire kinswoman who seemed so at ease with herself and everyone else (she had the brass to take a nap before dinner on the first day, asking a stranger to wake her up in time) and decided she should be my friend. The aforementioned Imogen also strode into poll position once I’d found out she was taking French too, she was also next door to me.
Rosie and Mary-Kate weren’t really my friends at first. Even though I knew that Mary-Kate had 3 siblings and was from Wigan and a Catholic school and that her mum was a diabetic nurse, and even though I knew that Rosie did Food Tech A Level (a qualification for which I would thank God at a later date) played netball and her sister’s boyfriend was in a band and that her dad owned a textile machinery company. I cringe to think of the information about myself that I foregrounded.
I had made it, my first gyaldem at university. All that was left to encounter was campus, classes and that previously unknown entity… boys.