With one of the biggest weeks of the student calendar upon us, Ciarán Bruder examines the Freshers’ Week experience and who ultimately gains from it
No date in the calendar has pubs scrambling to stock up, taxi drivers circling calendars months in advance or bouncers handing in their resignation quite as much as Black Monday. The single biggest night out in the student calendar has been and gone, and with it the onslaught of another Freshers’ Week. Fresh faced first years having moved to Dublin for the first time wander the campus in search of the secret lake. Old heads wonder where their long summer break went and resolutely promise to spend more time in the library this semester. Lecturers plan PowerPoint presentations for classes that will undoubtedly have sparse attendance thanks to the alcohol fuelled antics that a lot of students both new and old took part in the night before. But who are the real winners and losers of Fresher’s Week?
Many students who have signed into their Facebook page any time over the last week have been bombarded with notifications about drinks offers in the various nightclubs boasted by Dublin. Since 2010 accounts showed Copper Face Jacks reeling in over €217,000 in cloakroom charges alone, it cannot be said that nightclubs do not make the most of their student patriots for the nine months of the year they spend in the capital city. Every pub and club is running promotions, just begging to be the ones that pour the drinks down the throats of eager students at slightly discounted prices. From D-Two to Dicey’s, from the Academy to Alchemy, every bar prides itself on bursting at the seams with drinks, fun and just perhaps that one person who you can share a taxi home with. Though the dangers of drinking to excess have been well documented, it is equally important to direct this knowledge to the right demographic. For many students, this will be their first experience away from home, or in a less controlled environment. There is a stereotype to be met; the problem is that many new students don’t realise that it shouldn’t have to be.
“I know people that have had really bad experiences during Fresher’s week just because they were trying to keep in with the crowd,” says third year student Lisa*. “Guys that have ended up getting behind the wheel of a car while off their face and fall asleep at the wheel, girls that collapse in nightclubs and are left on their own out on the street. But at the same time, it can be a really good way to get to know people in your course to go out for a few drinks. I mean, it’s Freshers’ Week; you’re going to let your hair down a bit.”
Though many students will join societies based on the contents of their complimentary welcome bag rather than their actual character, the friends and experiences that can be gained from joining and actually attending society events is unparalleled. An explosion of colour and sound, the Societies tent dominates the events of UCD for Orientation week, as all the major societies try to outdo each other in the quality of their events and the wildness of their stands; candy floss machines, free pizza and togas will undoubtedly make an appearance. “Your first Freshers’ Week is an experience” says Eoin MacLachlan, auditor of the Literary & Historical Society (L&H). “There are so many things being shoved at you by different societies trying to convice you that they’re the one you should spend the rest of your college years dedicated to.” The L&H itself boasted almost 6,000 members signed up last year, making it the largest society on campus and demonstrating the scale of the Freshers’ week operation.
Sana Proudman, a third year Arts student and last year’s auditor of the World Aid society, describes what drew him to join the society in the first place. “There was kind of just a bond at Freshers’ Week in first year that never left. Just get involved with everything, anything you can, especially in first year, because grades are less important than in later years. Just throw yourself into campus life.”
First year student Tim Bruder is also looking forward to the opening weeks of the UCD college year. “I’m an international student so I’m really looking forward to getting the chance to know people. I’m looking forward to the wide range of societies that UCD offers and getting to join a couple. I’d say the student bar will be busy enough so I’ll pop down there, and the Student Union will be running some events too.”
With all this gaiety and frivolity, with the hundreds of friendships made and memorable nights had, there comes to mind only one real loser from Freshers’ week; janitors and street sweepers. A very unenviable job they have clearing away the debris of a week like Fresher’s Week, but nonetheless, it is a job that must be done. Because Freshers’ Week is such an integral part of the university experience, it consistently remains the highlight of the student calendar, an occasion where students, both old and new can interact, make new friends and really become involved in UCD life. And besides, they even give you a free scarf- for the first years, it can’t really get much better than this.
*Name has been changed to protect anonymity