Going to University is probably the biggest academic step you take after putting on your school uniform for the first time aged 5 and skipping off into the unknown with your Power Rangers lunchbox and a heart filled with wonder.
But, just as your first week at pre-school teaches you the harsh reality that having to be somewhere at the same time every day quickly dampens the enjoyment factor, Fresher’s week is equally eye-opening, just for different reasons.
Basic life skills pt.1: Washing
It’s Thursday. Since Sunday you’ve worn 2 outfits per day: one for making the best possible first impression for meeting flatmates and course mates for the first time, and one for the inevitable night out each evening. You’re burning through clean clothes at an unsustainable rate. You need to do a wash, but you don’t know where to start. You’re too early into your new friendships to risk revealing your complete dependence on your mum for anything to do with laundry, so you use the same brain that got you (into this mess) 3 B’s and go it alone.
The only problem is, now you’re unloading the washing machine at the laundrette 10 minutes down the road your clothes look cleaner but also smaller? They look like the t-shirts you remember but somehow greyer? And it cost you 2 quid. Fuming.
Home truth: You’re incapable of following basic, standardised instructions.
Basic Life skills pt. 2: The Food Shop
It’s Saturday, 10am. Your head is pounding, your body is crying out for water but the thought of leaving your bed is too much. Your phone starts ringing, causing your head to explode with white-hot pain behind your eyes. To stop the misery you answer it. It’s your Mum – she’s put £20 in your account to get a food shop in; she’s worried all you’ve been eating is Super Noodle sandwiches and cheesy chips. ‘Don’t spend it on going out’ she chides, signing off the call with how proud she is of you. This is problematic in 2 ways. 1: you are going out tonight, so unless you go food shopping now, the money will get spent in direct opposition to your mother’s wishes. And 2: Your hangover is too great to allow any kind of vertical movement.
As the clock ticks round to 2pm, the guilt is piling up. You actually need to leave the house to sort out pre-drinks for the evening’s festivities, but if you’re going to Aldi, you might as well do a food shop. So, here you are, sweating under the fluorescent strip lights, surrounded by trolleys and family units, eyes flitting over 4-shelves-worth of pasta. You’re looking at the options, but you’re not taking anything in. All your brain can recognise is swatches of light browns – a spiral here, a shell there - labels seem to be in a different language (Italian), and your anxiety has rendered basic maths impossible.
The rest of the ordeal passes in an adrenaline-blur – you come to your senses on the street outside, vaguely proud of yourself, but arms heavy with your poor decisions. Back at your halls, you unpack cheap beverages (so far so good), a pack of Bourbons (so far so good) and a 5kg pillow of Fusilli (what the fuck). A 5kg pillow of Fusilli. It’s intimidating, all 5kgs taking up the majority of the worktop. You try not to look at it directly as you usher it into your cupboard, sliding it to the back in a vain attempt to forget about it. But you can’t. It’s the spectre at the feast. You don’t even know how to cook it. Your life is spiralling out of control.
Home truth: You’re scared of dried pasta.
Basic Life skills pt. 3: Cooking
Nothing you do can shift the thought of the Fusilli. It occupies your daydreams and haunts your nightmares. Every pang of hunger is followed by a takeaway and a side of guilt. Today’s the day, you think, hungry for culinary learning and unable to justify another £5 kebab.
Today’s the day you murmur to yourself in encouragement as you open the cupboard and face the dried wheat behemoth. Leaning partially against the back wall, the Fusilli is no less intimidating than when it revealed itself days before. This time though, you’re ready. Head clear, recipe in hand, flat empty. There will be no outside judgement, just two gladiators duking it out with pride on the line.
You find your largest pan, fill it with boiling water from the kettle and stick it on the hob. A pinch of salt makes you feel Michelin-starred as you watch the liquid tousle with itself between the curved aluminium walls. As it reaches peak pasta temperature, you take the Fusilli pillow in your arms, preparing to decant it into its watery tomb. But the Fusilli has other plans.
In the final act of its arid existence, the Fusilli breaks free of your tentative control. As the pillow is tipped to 45 degrees the contents make a sudden lurch forwards, exiting the scissored corner at an unchecked speed; spilling both into the pan and onto the hob – overflowing the aluminium vessel and chattering onto the vinyl flooring.
It’s carnage: the salted water furiously surges over the hob, bubbling and spitting before joining the spirals on the kitchen floor. Frightened by what is unfolding you jump away, wrist bitten by the splash-back, cradling your reddened flesh and cursing your failure (in Italian).
Home truth: You’re still scared of dried pasta
In conclusion, Fresher’s week isn’t all ice-breakers and bar crawls: it’s a proving ground for modern life skills. Take the failures on the chin and by the time you’re handing in your dissertation, you’ll have mastered the basic adult skillset – just in time for wrestling with the horrors of council tax. Enjoy.
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