Shawn Chin

Fresher’s Week: Your experiences

I guess I’m old now. My PhD graduation is in November, over 10 years since my Freshers’ Week. Back then Tony Blair was prime minister, I’d never heard the phrase “credit crunch”, the pub near Pollock Halls did £1 pints on Mondays, and older students were excited about the new smoking ban. The pubs and clubs still smelled of stale smoke evaporating from the upholstery.

The banks were offering big cash incentives to open student accounts with them. The huge overdrafts were daunting and only after a series of tenacious refusals did I avoid being given a credit card too. In 2006 I was only vaguely aware of what the term “recession” meant.

On Saturday afternoon I unpacked my hi-fi, put on ridiculously loud music and waited for someone to come investigate the source of the racket. The first person to arrive asked whether I’d signed up to something called Facebook, which I’d never heard of. It was exclusively for students in those days.
I got married last year and had two best men. I met both in that first weekend. Another dozen wedding guests were life-long friends that I made in Freshers’ Week. My advice: don’t underestimate the longevity of the seemingly random friendships that you fall into during the first few weeks of university.

Edinburgh can be a confusing city to navigate. One night in Freshers’ Week I went to meet my new friends at the student union, Teviot Row House, but got hopelessly lost (no smartphones in 2006). I stumbled upon the Royal Mile and, defeated, hopped into a taxi. The driver, bemused and amused, didn’t have the heart to charge me for the 30 second journey.

Image: Shawn Chin

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