A Pembroke Fresher's Survival Guide
Emily Fish gives you the lowdown on the dos and don’ts of Pembroke freshers’ week, from free champagne, to the social scene, to keeping your neighbours happy.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll have prepared for your first term at university by spending months trawling the internet, reading every Student Room thread and fresher’s advice article - all in the vain hope that you’ll be ready for anything fresher’s week throws at you. Or maybe you’re just here because this seems like an almost productive method of procrastination to avoid your reading list. Either way, hopefully these seven simple pieces of advice will help to make your first week a little easier.
1. Make the most of all the free stuff
We all love anything that’s complimentary, which makes fresher’s week a little slice of heaven. Free things are everywhere, from champagne at the Dean’s drinks reception to food samples at the Fresher’s fair. Pick up every free bag of sweets and every pizza voucher that you walk past - you’ll thank yourself when it gets to the middle of term and you need some comfort food just to keep you going (and you might even be grateful that you signed up to some societies, even if it was only so you could take the free Celebrations on offer).
2. Don’t get freaked out when people start speaking in Latin
Cambridge is, and always will be, a strange yet wonderful place. When I tell my friends back up north about wearing a gown, going to formals, and having to sign a huge, ancient book with a fancy silver pen to officiate myself into the university, they think it’s really weird. And it is. But it’s also pretty fun, and in fresher’s week you’ll experience some of the ridiculous Cambridge traditions for the first time. Just don’t get too confused when the Master says grace in Latin before dinner - the novelty of that will never wear off, so make the most of it!
3. Try not to dwell too long on the things you say and do
So, you’re nervous. You’re in a new environment, with new people, and everything is a little bit alien. Inevitably, you’re going to say or do some things that you’ll regret. It might be sleeping with someone in your college family, or trying to hold your own in a conversation on something you know nothing about, from last season’s Bake Off to the migration patterns of buzzards. But everyone does embarrassing things under pressure, and I can guarantee that, soon enough, you’ll be laughing at the fact that you thought you were going to be sent down because you accidentally woke up the Dean at 3am on your way home from Cindies...
4. Make sure your cupboard is well stocked
Behind every successful fresher is a cupboard full of all the emergency resources that they might possibly need. This includes everything from tea bags and snacks, to condoms and Berocca. Even though Sainsbury’s is but a short walk away, there’s nothing worse than being cosy in your pyjamas with your tea brewing before realising you have no milk, or waking up with a cracking headache and having to leave your room to find a cure.
5. Always have your door open
As far as cliche articles telling you how to survive fresher’s week go, this is the most cliche I’m gonna get. But it has a ring of truth to it. It doesn’t have to be taken literally to be successful (mainly because the porters aren’t the biggest fans of doorstops); it can be as simple as inviting your neighbours over for a cup of tea, or offering someone paracetamol if they’re looking a bit rough around the edges. It can involve as little or as much actual socialising as suits you. More than anything, it’s about creating a pleasant, friendly environment - because you’re going to be living with these people for the rest of the year.
6. Don’t be afraid to say yes...
Saying ‘yes’, especially to things you might not usually, can seem like a deadset way to create the embarrassing situations you want to avoid. And it’s true. Agreeing to try rowing for the first time can make you realise how hideously uncoordinated you really are; attending collage soc can make you realise that you’re just not that ~wavy~. But, as cheesy as it sounds, you might also find yourself trying a new activity that you didn’t even know existed, let alone whether you would enjoy it. Discovering the things that you love and don’t love is a huge part of university life, and fresher’s week is the best - and easiest - place to start.
7. ...but don’t be afraid to say no.
As tempting as it might be to try and fit everything into your fresher’s week schedule, particularly for the natural-born extroverts and socialites amongst you, it isn’t necessarily a good idea. It might simply be that you hate the thought of going on a pub crawl, in which case saying ‘no’ in favour of something else is completely valid. Just because there’s a real hype around constant inebriation during fresher’s week doesn’t mean you have to join in if it isn’t your thing.
Emily Fish is a second year English Literature student and part of the Pembroke Street editorial team