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Great Expectations

Expectations vs Reality: James Murphy gives the lowdown on every fresher's first year

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Arriving at your University Of Choice, which, considering, is probably Exeter (if it was Oxbridge, you’re here now, so let it go) you will probably have ambitions. Let me be the first to say two things: Firstly, welcome! to probably the best university in the world, as those bumper stickers from the 90s still, for some reason, say. Secondly, take a deep breath, and give up.

You come with a plan: to leave nothing until the last minute, to drink responsibly, to get involved in a thousand societies and make a billion friends and learn to cook for yourself just like Mum said you would. You will be a Good Student™. (I’m assuming a lot, but considering where you are, and that you’re spending Freshers’ Week browsing the online student newspaper, I feel quietly confident this is you. If not, you’re probably more about getting constantly drunk and/or laid, in which case, reapply to Leeds.) Regardless, I hate to euthanize your delusional Pegasus, but trust me, it’s not happening that way.

You come with a plan: to leave nothing until the last minute, to drink responsibly, to get involved in a thousand societies …

No, you won’t make every lecture or society meet, yes you will eventually give in to microwave dinners and takeaways, and yes lots of nights out will suck. Your new flatmates (who you probably won’t love all of) won’t manage it either. And as all your preconceptions are razed to the ground like a poorly ventilated barbecue-Gazebo hybrid, you’ll wish you had no lofty pretensions to start with.

And that’s the best thing about it. Being a Fresher is not about being a “Good Student.” You had stressful dreadful A-Levels for that; will have Second, Third, etc. years for that. This is your respite. Consider First Year a pit-stop. You do you, whatever that means.

As all your preconceptions are razed to the ground like a poorly ventilated barbecue-Gazebo hybrid, you’ll wish you had no lofty pretensions to start with

I know people who worked like horses through First Year and regret it; I had a flatmate who joined eleven societies and dropped them one by one. But when I say, “give up,” I’m not saying don’t bother. It’s just that you may find the most important things are not, necessarily, where you expected.

So try it all. Get those fingers in all the pies, and lower your original expectations like a limbo pole in a formicarium. All that matters is you finding your joy. Make the most of this, don’t be too hard on yourself, and don’t expect too much. Some days we all forget to buy more loo roll.

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