Fresher's Week has offically begun and so far lived up to the hype. By day students flock to campus for registration and other bureaucratic procedures, but by night the Pav is the place to be. Fresher's Week at Castle Irwell and the Pav even holds more appeal than the great city of Manchester just twenty minutes away.
These were the three most common questions of the night, in order of popularity:
"Are you a first year too?"
"What are you studying?"
"Where are you from?"
It seems the idea of Fresher's Week is to distract first-time university students with eye-catching signs, organized gatherings and alcohol so as to ease them into their next four years at uni. The tactic is obviously successful because venues draw second, third, post-grad and even the odd non-students, as well as the hoards of wide-eyed, gung-ho and fresh-faced Fresher's. Everyone is eager to enjoy themselves before the work starts, regardless of their area of study or what year they are in.
One particular post-graduate student lamented the appeal of returning every year as a Fresher. This such student also suffers from an acute case of the Peter Pan syndrome. Then again, Fresher's Week is reminiscent of NeverNeverland, where people never want to grow up and strangely enough, tights are in.
I cannot say that I hold the ideals of Fresher's Week (party, party, party) close to my heart; but I do find the atmosphere charming. It is a genuine and valiant effort made on the part of many to simply have a good time. The night begins early and holds strong well into the morning. The muffled, and sometimes not so muffled, sounds of after hours partiers interrupt the quiet of the night that might have been. And plans for the next night prematurely develop when the weak ones call it quits.
One particular phenomenon I'm taken by is the overwhelming occurence of singing that occurs among the British. Sporadic and instantaneous chants and songs will errupt from one table and be picked up by others, sometimes spreading across the whole bar. I'm not describing lip-synching, it is full-blown, enthusiastic, hands in the air and coordinated singing.
If you're interested in hearing one such song that inspires the British to drop their conversations, throw their arms up in the air and belt out a verse or two, look up Place Your Hands by Reef. Other songs that inspired group participation are Jon Bon Jovi's Living on a Prayer and none other than Lynyrd Skynyrd's Sweet Home, Alabama. The irony of a bunch of British university students singing an iconic American song celebrating the history and culture of the Southern United States was not lost on me.
Even when the music stopped at the end of the night I noticed that the chanting continued. It wasn't long before I figured out it was coming from two opposing groups of people chanting in support of whichever football team they favoured. This particular square off was between Aresenal and Manchester United fans. Back and forth it went, one group promising the victory of their team and then pausing long enough to hear the rebuttle from across the room.
Now nearing 2 o'clock in the morning and with the party still alive outside my window (singing included), the first offical night of Fresher's Week was a success -- and to think there are still five more to go.