The Incomplete Guide to… Freshers’ Week Pres

So uni’s back, and freshers are once again filling our streets with expectation, trepidation and Tesco’s worst vodka. I could give a complete guide to university here, but that would just overwhelm and depress us all. So instead, let’s examine a microcosm of uni life – pre-drinks, better known as pres.

Lurid kitchen lights are flickering to life across the country as excited freshers begin chugging ungodly quantities of alcohol to save money at the club that awaits. Well, for some of you, this is what you’re in store for. For others, here’s a little trip down memory lane…

You’ll encounter:

The Animal

He’s already been pre-ing for pres, and probably pre-ed for that too. Naturally by this stage he’s already pretty drunk – a candidate for the night’s first casualty? Nope, this creature’s stamina is incredible, screaming football chants on his way to the club and whirling his shirt once in it. That said, he’s never around at the end of the night – he’s either stumbled upon a girl or into a skip.

animal no background

The Reluctant One

They hate loud music, clubbing, and this whole stupid situation. Why’s everyone so desperate to gyrate in front of each other in a dark room? They’re going along with this ‘night out’ lark in order to fit in for the first few days, but know that in a couple of weeks’ time they’ll be spending their evenings reading Harry Potter for the thirteenth time. But for now they sit and bear it, longing to throw on their invisibility cloak.

reluctant one no background

The Exotic Foreigner

Their tasty drinks – and looks – are at odds to their markedly… different… sense of humour. Just laugh happily as they deliver another one-liner on Serbia’s current grain shortage. And keep them away from the aux cord, or a tirade of Albanian breakbeat rap will reduce a once-lively pres to a scene straight out of Saving Private Ryan.

exotic foreigner no background

The Druggie

Their door creaks slowly open and a dark figure emerges, silhouetted against a thick cloud of smoke. No, it’s not a zombie emerging from a cryogenic chamber, just a stoned undergrad exiting their room. But weed’s just the start of it, they’ll soon be moving onto harder stuff. Now they swagger towards you, matching 1991 Adidas jacket and snapback bouncing along ominously, before their mouth opens. ‘Yah I can’t wait for this set, gonna be sick’. Turns out he’s from Surrey not Harlem.

Druggie no background

The Clean Claire

Oh my word, that’s a lot of dirty glasses. Don’t worry, they’re not having a seizure – they just twitch every time a drink spills. The charts are their exclusive source of music, but only the nice tracks – Drake can be a bit rude. Preferred conversation starters include ‘maybe put a lid on that wine glass’, and ‘have you heard about the new Duck power spray?’

clean claire no background

Your guide

So many of history’s most momentous events were underpinned by extensive and intricate planning. Think D-Day, man landing on the moon… these pres. Right, what alcohol to buy from the offie? Sun setting, you stride into the dingey shop.

Controversial opinion – go for orange juice and vodka. Tastes great, limited volume, no gas. Granted, you’ll look like an idiot, but who doesn’t nowadays? You slap your drinks on the counter along with a Freddo for the walk back. Yeah, it’s a car crash of a shopping basket. But quash the embarrassment for now, there’ll be plenty more where that came from.

Ten minutes later and you’re back at halls feeling pleasantly full. That Freddo was more than a meal. Forget that though, time to line that stomach. Pizza’s a solid shout, or if there’s none available, see what’s in the fridge. Banana and gravy. Delicious.

Next, hastily muddle together your wardrobe’s waviest of garms (think of a 1970s hobo for inspo), and you’re ready to go. You slither into the living room, where most of your flatmates are already gathered. Christ, suddenly all eyes are on you. Remember, nobody knows how weird you are yet, so don’t shout ‘ole’ or anything. Just strike a Blue Steel pose instead.

Things can be a bit awkward at this stage – after all you’ve only just met each other. Step forward, drinking games. Avoid ‘never have I ever’, which just makes you realise that nothing has ever happened to you. Anyway, Ring of Fire has been whacked out instead, as nobody can ever agree on anything better. Mainstream music patters away in the background, presumably under the control of Clean Claire.

Fast forward 30 mins and Ring of Fire’s over, The Animal has downed the dirty pint before doing a haka, and the pres are in full swing. You’re now being joined by people you can only assume (and pray) are your flatmates’ friends, while the aux cord has been kidnapped and Albanian rap is pumping through the room. But worse is to come – someone starts a conversation with you.

Try and ignore the inexplicable desperation to ask what A levels they did – a simple ‘hello’ will do. Pointless advice though, because no matter how hard you try, mundane questions will soon be being smashed back and forth between the two of you. It’s like watching Nadal and Fedz in their prime, but less interesting. And less tennisy.

But don’t worry, you’re not alone – the exact same questions are being echoed all around the room.

‘Where are you from? What’re you studying? Where did it all go wrong?’

Two drinks later and you’re trading these questions with a different stranger, and quite an attractive one at that. But the added alcohol, plus the pressure of talking to someone you maybe (definitely) fancy, mean this conversation is less smooth.

‘Where are you from?’

‘History’

‘What?’

‘Errr English. I mean England.’

To save this sticky situation, try lying to impress them. Tell them you’re related to someone famous (not Hitler), or that you once fought a giraffe.

Luckily, you’re interrupted by the night’s obligatory noise complaint – the pres are getting properly rowdy now. Responses to this range from ‘sorry we’ll leave now’ to ‘Aaaagh shut it Helen you old skank’. You should probably choose the first of these, but you’ll be drunk so will opt for the second. Ah well, school always told us honesty is the best policy.

Suddenly the clock strikes midnight, and now you must do a Cinderella and flee, or you’ll be left to round up the stragglers. More importantly, you get to avoid the end-of-pres squawking of Wonderwall. Grab a loyal friend (Mr Mundane Question, you’ll do), take one last look at the smoking wreckage behind you, and sprint for the taxi.

The cab driver’s waiting, not only for you to enter, but to ask him how busy he’s been. But don’t spout clichés – instead, tell him you respect all he’s done for you and your family.

While you talk, he drowns you out with radio as the three of you speed ever faster towards town. And God knows what’ll happen there.

Illustrations by Nishad Rai

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