HELEN CAHILL tells us why we should keep Freshers’ Week as short as it is.
Freshers’ Week has begun – conventionally seen as the time to make your friends, before starting work.
As many Freshers will realise though, Cambridge doesn’t give its newest members much of an acclimatisation period. Don’t miss one wristband-requiring mash-up, there won’t be many opportunities and everyone will become best-friends without you.
Unsurprisingly, students often complain about this – it’s hard to settle in if Freshers’ Week is so short. Most people would argue we need to give people more time to integrate socially before they’re packed off to the library. If it’s now or never for friendship-forming, then perhaps we should add a few days to Freshers’ Week.
Would people really ‘fit in’ better if we extended Freshers’ Week, though? Meaningful relationships are rarely created in someone’s first week in a new environment, so the idea that Freshers’ Week can give a sense of belonging is deceptive.
The kinds of events available aren’t ideal for creating lasting connections either. If you have an emotional crisis in week three, you’re unlikely to think ‘I know, I’ll call that person I met in Cindies two weeks ago!’
Valuable friendships take time to form, and they will. People make friends in every year of their degree, in college and out of it –there’s obviously no set method. If a finalist said they hadn’t made any friends since squashes and Cindies, that’d be quite a claim.
So why value Freshers’ Week more than any other? To emphasise its unrivalled group-galvanizing power by asking for an extension on that basis is to misunderstand, misrepresent and overstate its function.
A University committed to student well-being doesn’t pool its resources into Freshers’ Week for a very good reason. We need to look beyond it.
A great house-warming party doesn’t make a happy home. Putting all that social pressure on the first few days is part of what makes them so stressful. We should be alleviating that pressure because we forget that some people continue to feel lost in the period afterwards.
Freshers’ Week doesn’t determine much in the way of long-term happiness. By wanting it to be longer, we give off the impression that it does and that undermines the importance of the rest of student life.
It also implies that something’s amiss for people who haven’t made all their friends immediately. Let’s forget Freshers’ Week and be realistic about what makes people feel at home in Cambridge.