Above: some fictional freshers tackle freshers week. Credit: Netflix.
Freshers week is something that comes with a few connotations, and rather than rattle off a list of examples, we’ll jump straight to the most obvious one: alcohol. For the past decade or so, the opening week of University – which, for most unis in the UK, is happening as we type this – is structured around a hearty foundation of booze-fuelled social events (and poorly crafted fancy dress).
If you’re starting university and you’re Muslim, it’s fair enough if this makes you feel particularly apprehensive. How will you fit in with your new flatmates if you don’t drink? Will they think you’re antisocial? Will you be left out of flat dinners, flat nights out and all those other flat-based activities everyone will zealously organise in the first week (then never ever again for the rest of the year)?
The answer is: it shouldn’t make a difference. You’re just as likely to enjoy freshers week surrounded by a kitchen – and you will be spending a lot of time in a kitchen – load of undergrad-alcoholics as you would hanging out with stone-cold sober ravers. It really depends what they’re like as people.
What we’re saying is this: you don’t need to booze to have fun during freshers, and you’ll soon realise that Halal food and prayer rooms are a much bigger part of university life than you might expect. Here’s how to make the most of your first week’s foray into the social side of higher education, without a drop of drink in sight.
A Bit of Dutch Data Courage Before We Begin
This might help to allay your worries: a study released earlier this year found that more than a quarter of 16 to 24-year-olds in the UK do not drink. Not a drop. So when you show up to uni, you might find a few more people – Muslim, Christian, agnostic, tall, short, whatever – than you expected are nursing Red Bulls during the pre-lash.
It’s not the noughties anymore. University is no longer about necking sambuca in the SU before the Rugby team duct-tape you to a lamppost. This is the age of no-platforming, being woke, and not wasting vastly increased fees on the sesh. In short, alcohol is bound to be less of a freshers fixture than you previously thought.
Make Friends With Your Flat
We hate to repeat a tired cliche, but try to be a safe, cool guy to the people you have to share halls with (or a house/flat, if you’re not living in student accommodation). Do all the things the leaflets tell you about: leave your bedroom door open, bring your A-grade banter, don’t label your food in the fridge like a sociopath etc.
Better yet, take the lead on suggesting fun stuff that you could all do, like exploring the local town, meals out, bowling – all things that can be enjoyed whether you drink or not.
Join a Society
It would be pretty bait if we, Ummahsonic, the website with ‘Ummah’ in the name, just told you guys to join your uni’s ISOC and left it at that. Surely we could offer more creative tips? Right? Well, we’re gonna try! But first, we will say that your uni’s ISOC is worth checking out, especially in the first week.
If freshers is feeling overwhelming – say, some of your flatmates aren’t as wonderful as you imagined – then see what’s going down at the Islamic society, because they’ll no doubt be running events that offer a fulfilling alternative to the usual fresher fare. Many of them will also take part in a wide range of interfaith activities with other societies, giving you the chance to develop a friendship circle that extends waaaaay beyond your flat or course.
The thing is, your uni will probably have a society for pretty much everything, from stamp collecting to e-sports, so be sure to do a bit of research to find the SOCs that are right for you. And if there isn’t a society that suits you, then why not start your own? It’s university – there is never a better time to take some initiative! Speaking of which….
Have you guys seen the news lately? Lots going on, huh? Tonnes of stuff that probably makes you feel some type of way, a way that makes you want to change the status quo? Wouldn’t it be cool to link up with fellow young people who have similar views to you, before getting out there and trying to do just that?
As we said before, the modern day university student is politically engaged and determined to make their voice heard. Even if you have zero hobbies and the thought of joining the, dunno, crochet society just to be part of the group makes you want to cry, then take this approach: what do you care about? What issues do you feel are affecting young people? And what needs changing to make the future a better place?
While there might not be a ‘Make The World A Utopia By 2020’ SOC, we guarantee that there are students who care about the issues you care about, and that they’re working to change them through political parties, student union elections, talks, or good ol’ fashion demonstrations. While you might not find them during freshers week, you’ll seek them out eventually. When you do, you’ll wonder why you ever had apprehensions about fitting in prior to that first week.