Dear freshers…

An editorial longread, a heartfelt guide to your first days as a student.

Dear freshers…

Freshers are like snowflakes; no two are the same — yet most are painfully similar.

Forged predominantly as a product of a private school, middle class, and middle England (or its continental equivalents) background, you cross the threshold into the ivory towers with similar hopes, fears, and expectations.

Yet, fresh-faced following ‘liberating’ travels throughout the low-cost tourist trail, and a mutual (or, let’s face it, imminent) split from your pallid homegrown significant other, you enter Warwick and find, rather than an academy of thought wherein nestled lies a booming bohemian underbelly, a half-racked fast-track spring-loaded spring-week post-war afterthought of a university, with any semblance of vibrancy breathed solely by the spirit of international finance. You find more silent seminars than seminal trips; shots and snapchat rather than Descartes and dilettantism; with interest rates and internships coming before Corbyn and cocaine.

A university, even Warwick, can be fertile ground to form a future identity.

Although if your stint in higher education is to you no more than a step-up to signal that you’re sufficiently systemic to stick the supposed rigours of life as city sycophant, you’ll find no need to swim against any current; keep your head down, secure your varying society exec roles that you have no interest in honouring, receive your two-one and… hasta luego. If not, fear not, as with most dissected bodies, in amongst the mechanistic modulations it takes little imagination to perceive the vapours of intrigue. So much so that university, even Warwick University, can be fertile ground to form your future identity.

So please find here a half-baked attempt to encapsulate the spirit of starting out as a fresher. Unlike the innumerable happy helpful guides that you’ll likely be pillared with, we have no stake in your perceptions and actions at the university, nor do we have an overt altruistic desire to be intentionally useful. Consider this instead a string of timely, yet unrequested, meditations on one person’s path into the academic unknown.

Freshers’ week. 

People who think reality won’t hit ground their beliefs in haphazard stories of sharing a spliff with a trust-fund hippie in a hostel.

As a starry-eyed infant, the world around you is a dream hazy with smiling carers, loving helpers, and sensical systems built on adoration and trust. Man is born free, yet then begins to read newspapers. Eventually, the reality dawns that the world is a place that is neither simple nor particularly pleasant.

People who tell you otherwise ground their beliefs in haphazard stories of sharing a spliff with a trust-fund hippie in a hostel — they have never been chased down a back alley in Bogotá at four in the morning by a crackhead wielding a metal pipe. Indeed, the world is full of pain and injustice — children mine the Coltan in your iPhone, racism still holds people back in the job market, and Warwick doesn’t have a proper freshers’ week. You get the idea. The lecture-filled integration-averse freshers ‘experience’ is by no means the only injustice on campus; the class divide in university accommodation and the patent sexism by club bouncers both spring to mind; yet it is by far the most perverse.

Devoid of a true freshers’ week, Warwick’s lucky freshers will encounter a week of 9am lectures.

As such, whereas most human-centred universities will create a full timetable of adorable cultish meet and greet events — Warwick’s lucky freshers will encounter a nine AM Sub-national feminism in no particular context module following a questionably-noticeable night out at Coventry’s famous down-at-heel club, Kasbah.

Short of the occasional canapé and ‘networking’ event that may arise, the main crowd of people you will encounter are the ramshackle collection of students that fill your halls. If, like me, you get very lucky in said halls, this is no bad thing: you can fill the hours between introductory lectures recounting uninteresting stories about your life whilst awaiting the ritual of playing the three drinking games that you collectively know. If, on the other hand, you find yourself at the arse-end of campus with a group of lock-ins — heaven help you, go out and find an interesting group before it is too late.

Should you have the time and volition to read this entire piece, likely you will be looking for things to do to fill the spaceless hours that nobody told you would exist in amongst the supposed alcoholic haze of the first few weeks of university. You may be disappointed to find a distinct lack of drug-fuelled art parties, or for that matter, anything to do in the daytime.

This is called drinking to forget how boring you are.

Yet fear not, I have two solutions. Firstly — university needn’t be a permanent state of catatonic bliss — that is only something that happens abroad — instead, it’s quite alright to be bored, just don’t vegetate. As that first point sounds too much like self-help, the other piece of advice is to throw enough substances in your body that any natural aversion you have towards finding yourself in novel situations disappears. In university, this is called drinking to forget how boring you are. Everyone does it, and so should you, unless you become a dickhead when you’re drunk.

A healthy dose of post-lunch beverages can make the difference between an afternoon of YouTube bingeing BB King concerts, and sleeping with a smoking hot Serbian after semi-sober pseudo-philosophising through regurgitating the five interesting mindful meditations you can conjure, as if from a sub-par cut-scene in Linklater’s Before Sunrise.

Moreover, the recalcitrance that a pre-alcohol iteration of yourself may have towards drifting from questionable situation to questionable situation can, with a touch of conscious effort, disappear — allowing you to perhaps eventually live in the surreal drift of surroundings that you dreamt university would entail.

People, surprisingly, are more effervescent in their first few days; generally, this will mean that their natural shitness will eventually shine through

Naturally, of what can be considered a freshers’ experience, the few people you find are of focal importance. Everyone is different, and so there is no point in setting out any generic comments — except perhaps the need to remember that all of these people (including that guy who did a gap year), are likely just as lost and boring as you are. People, surprisingly, are more effervescent in their first few days; generally, this will mean that their natural shitness will eventually shine through. However, use the brief intermittent period to throw a net that is as extensive as possible in lieu of contacts — so that you may catch the occasional gem.

God, if I could hear myself now… If you don’t know how to make friends and have fun, then by God don’t look to the Hoar for actual help. Perhaps it’s time to touch much more pertinent matters; say, the inevitable hours you will spend gyrating to thoroughly average mainstream music mash-ups in thoroughly average mainstream clubs.

You’ll find suggestive headline nights and naughty words written on walls.

In those vague periods between trying to negotiate four different (entirely unannounced) bureaucratic streams, you will inevitably find yourself falling into body-odour heaving overheated rooms, wherein you’ll find suggestive headline nights and naughty words written on walls (which attempt to serve the same purpose as viagra in retirement homes, or slow jazz in the Edinburgh Zoo panda enclosure). Whilst the freshers’ period will probably not be your first introduction to the nightclub scene (unless you really are a dull fucker), it will seem as though it is the most pivotal patch of partying you will have experienced.

To don a word from the not-so-wise — tolerating the same old shit a few dozen times is a necessary evil in forging conviviality. One-off niche techno nights in the Zephyr Lounge can wait until you’ve found your feet. Moreover, as you are reminded for the fifth time in one night that ‘uptown funk gonna give it to you’, you may enjoy the artistic existential dread that repetitive empty nights can furnish you with; if nothing else, reflecting on the whole ordeal gives you a great deal of material to discuss with the fly-by-night friends you’ll make in the smoking area.

To quote the Soviet defence minister on the downing of a spy plane, “don’t shit where you eat”.

As for the matter of meeting people in clubs, a few hard and fast rules arise: to quote the Soviet defence minister on the downing of a spy plane, “don’t shit where you eat” almost goes without saying, but for at least the first few months, your flatmates are romantically out-of-bounds. The same goes for simply spending time in clubs with your peers from halls, don’t cling to them for safety, you have a whole year with those fuckers, meet and greet while people are for once vaguely open; and by the starry heavens above us, and the historical dialectic beneath us, don’t fall in love — especially if you are a fresher fresh in the realm of singularity.

By now you likely regret indulging in freshers’ tickets, and so you should. Just because you spent five British pounds on a ticket to the misleadingly named ‘Flirt’ night, be prepared to drop such preparations in a heartbeat. Go, as it were, where the spirit takes you. Follow that Finnish flame from finance classes as she invites you some godawful night in Leamington,. Joke with everyone she introduces you to, and grin and bear the reality of the homogeneity of nights out in the Midlands.

Societies

The mark of a good writer is the ability to condense a sentiment, behind which lies years of wisdom, into a handful of lines. Fittingly, this piece has covered two main points in well over a thousand words. As such, to quote the last words of Gary Gilmore as he faced the firing squad, let’s bloody well get this over with.

The majority of societies reflect the unavoidable facets of one’s self, such as nationality or degree subject.

Societies are something of a badge of honour to universities; every university claims to have the greatest and most diverse selection of societies, and Warwick is no exception. However, most societies follow a fairly predictable hue, and, consequently, a ‘diverse range’ of societies isn’t all too valuable an asset, especially when it appears that the vast majority of said societies reflect a kind of shit union based on unavoidable facets of one’s self, such as nationality or degree subject.

Indeed, the societies committee often appears too busy creating new geographical super- and sub-regions for which to grant a separatist identity that funding is never extended to innovative interest expanding groups — such as the short-lived DocSoc movement (a group devoted to fusing documentary and rave cultures, RIP). As you may have guessed, the Hoar is not a society. Hence we are permitted the freedom to criticise whomever we so please — unbeholden to any interests but those of our oft-hungover writers.

You are not Hungarian and the £4 membership fee for Wine and Whiskey Society is not justified.

Don’t, therefore, make the age-old mistake of buying societies federation membership and joining every society from Mauritian to Mauritanian — you are not culturally Hungarian and the four-pound membership fee for Wine and Whiskey Society will never be justified. Regardless of what their representatives say, you have absolutely no need for a membership to try a couple of sessions and get the measure of the matter. Indeed, many members of the Debating Cult never appear to even join their own society, but somehow get subsidised travel around Europe to their strange affairs.

Moreover, splashing out on a variety of different memberships isn’t worthwhile when it comes to distributing one’s time. To properly experience a society, one must devote to it a great deal of effort. Unless one is one of the horrible people for whom multiple society memberships mean multiple opportunities to enter a clientelist executive committee and hence bolster your CV, one will not profit from wasting ones afternoons half-arseing a series of interests.

It would be unfair to impress upon the the reader that all societies are vacuous affairs for self-advancement; some are notably not shit. Surprisingly, not everything in Warwick happens to be shit, and hence the next section will be devoted to the collection of rare pleasures that can be found, and where one may find them.

Always follow the spirit of a conversation if a conversation is fuelled by spirits.

Finally, perhaps the most valuable nugget of advice from this section: always follow the spirit of a conversation if a conversation is fuelled by spirits. Don’t waver in acting on the suggestion of a drunken conversation, especially when it comes to creative matters. The Hoar wouldn’t exist if it hadn’t been for a drunken night at Robbins Well (which, even more fittingly, has since closed — Ed). If a well-lubricated conversation heads you in the direction of a new society or interest group, by all means follow it up and do the damn thing yourselves. The reward will be notably more valuable to you that way, as you’ll see a small chunk of campus society, and indeed your own life, as a reflection of your volition, aspirations, and effort. How cute.

Things that aren’t shit 

Warwick Radio is remarkably not shit.

Hearing your voice boom back to you in a radio studio touches a corner of life’s pleasure that escapes words. So too does knowing that the three people listening to you live likely couldn’t give a shit for the great lengths you go to in describing pre-coup Chilean music. Yet more than just a fun excuse to justify an eccentric music taste — Warwick Radio is remarkably not shit. You can meet the few people who’ll want to attend a club night  that’s slightly different, or help organise open mic nights that value creativity. Indeed, you may even find yourself trying your hand at music and poetry, which can be an infinite source of enjoyment.

Another positive avenue is writing; you could always join the Hoar. We’re constantly looking for ‘against the grain’ writers with a taste for punk satire, you need only submit an article through our website, and, if we like it, we’ll try and make you a permanent fixture. Note that our articles are uncredited, so as to avoid the lacklustre step-up journalism that seems to permeate into so much campus writing. Furthermore, you can’t even put our name on a respectable CV.

The Tab has commitment to sensationalism, the Boar to the truth, the Panoptic to being thoroughly interesting, and we to the rest.

Writing on campus can be bland at times: the Tab has a commitment to gross sensationalism, and the Boar has a commitment to the truth (or actually reporting the comings and goings of campus life, which can be remarkably boring). Needless, there are a number of interesting avenues to follow. One that has spurred my interest of late is the nascent Panoptic, in which almost any subject matter is open to write about — and is all presented in a neat format with a genuine commitment to quality.

However, not everyone who arrives at Warwick has an interest in music or writing, and there is little I’d be qualified to spell out on other such matters, instead my focus will shift to more general matters that aren’t shit. For the sake of brevity, only two will be touched upon; cosmopolitanism and coffee shops.

Warwick is, on most counts, a thoroughly international university. Save the small-minded suitor of atavism, this is rather fantastic. Firstly, international students provide more than just a ready bank of potential holiday locations, they’ve had the pleasure of leading a thoroughly different childhood to yourself. Many still manage to be entirely boring, but there’s a commensurate bunch who, through good old cultural exchange, have a bounty to give: their different experiences allow you to grow your own.

For fear of sounding overly sentimental (Brexit has left me in a state of extreme sensitivity), we’ll move on to the flipside of Warwick’s international flavour: exchange programmes. As I write this monstrosity, I sip local red wine in my apartment on the sunny Provençal climbs of Southern France. I don’t mean to brag, but it’s fucking lovely. It is imperative that you seize every opportunity to study abroad in whatever capacity is offered during your degree. Warwick genuinely provides a great deal to that end. The only parts of you that’ll regret it are your wallet, liver and lungs.

For first years, a trip to Leamington involves a journey on the bad-but-not-quite-as-bad-as-waterboarding U1 bus.

As for coffee, given the thoroughly middle-class nature of Leamington Spa (until you enter the abyss to the south [which has charms of its own]), a profusion of independent coffee shops are to be found. These provide the ideal milieu for every kind of meeting, none more so than sharpening your teeth in quixotic discussions ranging from fantasy loves to fantasy league football. Whilst for first years, a trip to Leamington involves a journey on the bad-but-not-quite-as-bad-as-waterboarding U1 bus, a day wherein an eleven AM coffee meeting drifts onto a four AM trawl through Brazilian bossa nova, is scarcely wasted, even when the looming dread of exams warrants that your time is spent labouring under the rational hand of the library clock.

Sports 

If leaving your fee-paying, ivy-walled school and joining university forces you to rub shoulder with too much riff-raff, then perhaps a sports society might be for you. Alternatively, should you aspire to be a genuine sportsperson, they are something of a necessary step along the way.

However, should you not wish to devote your life to a mono-gendered cult of action — being barked at with drinking orders that have the same fascist ferocity as training drills — then, by all means, avoid them. Taking rugby as an example, you can witness the fraternal cult of tubby private school boys taking little regard for the enjoyment of alcohol as they set a series of manhood-proving drinking tests for one another, losing veritable days in their weeks to the mélange of drinking and training. Then there is rowing, wherein narcissism is the closest thing an outsider will see to a personality. Not all sports societies are so intense, it should be added, there’s a lot to be said for the non-professional ambitions of non-competitive sports — where, quite surprisingly, people can interact in some semblance of social conviviality.

Studies

If you remember nothing else, remember to never take study advice from the Hoar. Beyond that; a vague commitment to attend lectures and seminars, a dose of sentience, dabbling in relevant literature, and a library dash in the final weeks should be all one really needs to secure a two-one. Unless you are intent upon pursuing academia further, a two-one is more than sufficient — firsts are for people who floss. Add to that that first year doesn’t count for many courses, and it may be time for a drink.

If you remember nothing else, remember to never take study advice from the Hoar. 

However, not only do you still need to pass but also it’s well worth your while to go for a two-one, as it is usually a prerequisite to most options of studying abroad. Returning once again to the subject of studying abroad, it may be a fruitful experience attempting to pick up a language as one of your modules. By shaking off an adolescent recalcitrance to the great unknown in other languages, you’ll perhaps found that there’s a great deal to be gained from being able to assimilate more easily into other cultures — even if that only means assimilating yourself into the beds and bodies of foreign lovelies in Bluebell who may (or in some cases, may not) adore mumbled attempts to chat to them in their native tongue. However, don’t, as one Hoar did, attempt to pick up a language you have no attempt of learning, only to score a remarkable 14100 in that module.

Housing

Nowadays, it seems that everyone lives in some form of house. Given the importance of protecting yourself from the West Midlands sky, it may be worth spilling a couple of lines in the direction of housing.

Never go to Coventry. To be clear, don’t go to Coventry.

It should, within a couple of hours of arriving, go without saying that you absolutely need to escape halls as soon as is humanly possible. This should never mean going to Coventry, to be clear, don’t go to Coventry; staple your balls to the floor of the Red Square if you must, but don’t ever live in Coventry, Canley, or any other post-war equivalent. As a politics lecturer said to a room of four-hundred students on our inaugural lecture — the Germans had the right idea.

That leaves Leamington or Kenilworth. Go to Kenilworth if you wish to be a middle-England aesthete. Go to Leamington if you wish to be a normal human being. Upon arriving in Leamington, you’ll likely find it to be nowhere near the university. This is a technical fuckup that is yet to be addressed. However, it is the only place where any semblance of ‘something’ is ever happening.

Nothing breeds animosity like soggy shags.

As for who to live with, if there is any hint that your potential housing partner is a list maker, ditch them at first instance. Life in a house is so much easier without some anal bastard reminding you of the dishes. It’s probably unwise also to move in with your very best of friends. Love and hate are horns of the same beast, and hence you’ll likely find disputes more likely to flare; that, or you’re too much of a boring fucker to have an intense relation with anyone. It should be reminded that women have a lot of hair, which can make co-habitation difficult, however, don’t let this get in the way of living in a fruitful mixed-gender house, or for that matter, being a woman.

As for coital relations, remember that walls are only so thick, and housemates’ patience only so extensive. Nothing breeds animosity like hearing consecutive soggy shags at three AM in the full knowledge that you are only six hours away from your next seminar. Nothing, that is, except the act of choosing housemates. This will inevitably be a clusterfuck shitshow of hall politics. A good way to avoid having an issue here, is to not be a twat, forge alliances early, and mercilessly evade the possibility of being the person that the hated member of your hall group eventually has to live with.

Finance

University costs a great deal of money. As it would appear that the powers-that-be have little interest in lightening the financial burden of studenthood, the issue of how to pay for the whole affair warrants a brief mention. There is, however, little to be said on funding your time here save for the advice that you have to either a) come from a wealthy family that will send you piles of cash in hessian sacks, or b) forfeit the internship that is supposed to be a worthwhile expenditure of your free time and get a summer job.

Internships are like chlamydia.

On the matter of internships, we can swiftly return to Warwick’s other forte, careerism. So as to claw their way up university rankings, Warwick attempts to stuff their students onto every student programme the financial institutions of the city have to offer. As such, internships are like chlamydia, but without the fun; everyone seems to get them, yet they make no discernible positive impact on the individual’s lives.

Unless your childhood dream was to fill in spreadsheets so as to reorganise information that’ll make a collection of idle individuals increasingly wealthy, then you should really consider jobs outside of the square mile. This is tantamount to heresy on campus.

If I could implore, or indeed inspire one sentiment amongst the minds of students, it is to resist the idea that — aged eighteen — you need to be a corporate man-child with a full idea of your aims, ambitions, and strategy. Rather, in my humble and often misplaced opinion, university should be a protected buffer of years as you transition from an institutionally raised child into an individual adult capable of cultivating your own differences from the population as a whole. As such, grant an audible fuck you to the endless stream of CV clinics, corporate presentations, and employability workshops. Now is a time for, it pains me to say it, creating yourself — not applying to a starter programme at KPMG.

Students’ Union

Driving down a Portuguese motorway with an old friend, we played a wonderful game of comparison between the role of student unions and their national body, the NSU, both now, and thirty years ago. Once upon a time, the students union represented the collective interests of students in order to act as a counter-power to both university management and, on a national scale, the government. Students generally aligned with their union, and as such, managed to resist augmentations in fees, along with securing benefits on campus — in Warwick, we owe the very existence of students’ union buildings to a notably prolonged occupation.

Instead, we hoarishly complain about it until someone can be bothered to attempt to make a change.

Whether the deterioration of this role was on the behalf of students, who may have drifted away from any consciousness of their predicament as vulnerable young new voters, so as to focus on their careers, leaving an increasingly isolated and absurd psuedo-punkish ‘different’-brigade to fulfil the role of student protest. Or whether it was the increasingly petty and absurd actions of SUs across the country, focusing more on taking relatively uncontroversial positions on global political issues (often, confusingly, marred by tinges of anti-semitism) as a step up to a potential political career, rather than actually posing any meaningful resistance to legislative changes that affect a great deal of students by virtue of their being students (such as the abolition of the maintenance grant for poor students), that was the cause — doesn’t much matter. What does matter is that we don’t react to the increasingly petty absurdity of the SU by attempting to tear it down, but instead, hoarishly complain about it until someone can be bothered to attempt to make a change, and hence a meaningful union for students.

Bloody hell, that’s a lot said, now to close up

Freshers, freshers, freshers of the world unite; let your hobbies be registered crimes, let your mind, wallet, liver and lungs step gluttonously down avenues not yet pursued. By God, try to be your own damn people; you have nothing to lose but the shackles of middle class anaemicness. You can sleep when you’re dead.

I’m approaching the bottom of my box of wine, and hence it is time to close this diatribe whilst I can still faintly make out the laptop screen. My fingers fumble to roll one last cigarette — and like a drunken elder cousin I rely you this; the consequences of your university years are, legally speaking, sparse. Yet they go a great way towards forging the adult you’ll regret being in the future. As such, it’s time to carpe fucking diem, you’ll never be faced with a better opportunity to know how it feels to be on your own, without a home, like a rolling stone.

Have a passable year.