Social Spaces: Freshers And Socialisation During The ‘New Normal’
Rebecca Colyer debates the ever changing ways in which students must socialise due to the impact of COVID-19
The chaotic, sleepless and hungover ‘traditional’ Freshers week has been fully reimagined, as the concept of Fresher’s flu was taken to the extreme. However, after spending months at home, the anticipation, excitement and nerves of moving away from home was still just the same, if not even heightened further.
It can be great fun, but alcohol is not the be-all and end-all of socialisation
Right from the offset, students knew socialising and Uni life would be different; it didn’t mean events and the buzz of a new place were less exciting – merely different. Anyone expecting a ‘normal’ start was most likely to be disappointed as pub crawls and large group meet-ups were replaced with Zoom quizzes and coffee mornings. With the endlessly enthusiastic committee members giving 100%, this year offered a chance to move towards a fundamentally new model, with more day activities and interacting with people outside of the drinking/club environment – with 36% of 16-24-year olds in full-time education not touching alcohol at all. Don’t get me wrong it can be great fun, but alcohol is not the be-all and end-all of socialisation.
So, perhaps it was a blessing in disguise? Whilst making new connections and the surprising incidental conversations were limited, it forces you to be more proactive, arrange to meet and grab a drink (before 10pm of course) – building up self-confidence to send a text to the bottomless WhatsApp chat, “Is anyone up for a coffee?”
Whilst cities, universities and societies were faced with little options in hosting events, there was a part of me that wanted to bundle down to campus, bombarded with flyers and leave end up signing up for about 50 different societies, who knows you might be the best Archer ever?! Sports were a whole different ball game to manage, with it being nearly impossible to join virtual ‘football’ or ‘hockey’.
Instead, with a digital-first approach taking centre stage this year, any event you can conceivably think of went virtual: drinks, quizzes, yoga, baking and fitness classes. Whilst this doesn’t replace the face-to-face interactions and atmosphere that you experience when everyone comes together. The fear of exclusion, what to wear and how to act is diminished – as you can simply be in the comfort of your room, flat or home.
As term progresses and guidance, rules and events are constantly changing, socialisation is more than ever about putting yourself out there and grabbing every opportunity to meet new people, even if that is through yet another Zoom call.