Written by Rebecca Marrow. 

Freshers. It is a term often associated with the idea of meeting new people and going to new places.

Photo: Mariana Zanatta, Flickr.
Photo: Mariana Zanatta, Flickr.

In the weeks running up to it we are told we need to buy wristbands for this and book tickets for that, and if we do not then we are “missing out” on a huge opportunity to meet the people that are sure to become our ‘friends for life’.

The events that are held are advertised as being the biggest and the best that fresher’s week has to offer, and to some people this must sound like the most amazing thing ever.

But for those who suffer with mental illnesses like social anxiety, freshers can often feel pressurised in certain situations, hence freshers can be a constant source of worry and panic.

A first year student at the University of East Anglia, who suffers from anxiety said: “I was worried that it would be like that when I got to university and it would be really full on.  I thought I would either freak out or I would end up feeling really isolated because I would not want to do stuff.”

The problem seems to stem from the way in which freshers has been branded. Even though at Lincoln there were socials such as the pub quiz and events including the poster sale and societies fair during the day, the things held at night seemed preoccupied with the idea of going out to drink and mix with a lot of people all at once in a confined space.

Although freshers week is the busiest the Engine Shed has been so far this year, perhaps the university would benefit from having a fresher’s week that caters for all kinds of people.

She said: “My University was great for this – there was a big diversity. I went to a stand up comedy gig with one of my roommates and I enjoyed doing that. However, I felt that there were some things I definitely did not want to do, so I just did not do them.

“I feel like people at other universities would benefit from a wider range of stuff during freshers.”

So maybe a re-brand is in order for the concept of freshers? One that would mean it became accessible to those suffering from any form of anxiety, rather than just those who feel comfortable with it as it is now. One that gave multiple options – with a choice of different types of events, not just different types of clubs.

However, despite the pressure causing her to worry beforehand, parts of freshers proved to be a very positive experience for this student. The things that her university scheduled for each day gave her a plan and a structure, and because of this she said she was “surprised” by how well she managed to cope with it all.

And this feeling of calm seems to have continued right through to general university life: “I have not had a panic attack since I have been here, and considering I was having several every day at college, I would say I have done pretty well.

She added: “Basically, here I almost bring on more anxiety by being worried about how chilled out I am now.”

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