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    I Relived Freshers' Week A Decade On And This Is What Happened

    "I'm too old for this shit." – me, every single day

    Sian Butcher / BuzzFeed

    It's nine years since I was a fresher at the University of Sussex. It was a time when I met people who are now my best friends, went out almost every night, and experienced living away from home for the very first time.

    Remee Patel

    Yes, that's me holding two cups of wine.

    As freshers' week happens again all over the country, what it would be like if I went back, almost a decade later? How would I cope as a "responsible" adult?

    My idea of a night out is a steak dinner with the BFF and a bottle of wine, certainly not vodka shots in big clubs where I can't hear anything. I'm a bit of a granny, so the idea of going back to university and immersing myself in the life of the typical 18-year-old fresher scares me senseless. But I'm interested to see how uni life has changed since I went all those many years ago, as well as wanting to know if my body can cope.

    I want to relive all of those wonderful, yet hazy, memories.

    Sian Butcher / BuzzFeed

    I headed to Sussex wondering if I had lost my damn mind. But as soon as I stepped on campus, I was hit by an intense wave of nostalgia.

    Remee Patel / BuzzFeed

    I suddenly felt emotional and overcome with affection for Sussex. It wasn't until I walked past all of the students I didn't recognise that I remembered that my friends, the ones I met here all of those years ago, wouldn't be around this time.

    It was at this point that I realised just how terrifying freshers' week is: You have to navigate a new chapter of your life by yourself and live with and among different kinds of people from different places, all with the expectation that you're supposed to be having the time of your life.

    Feeling a bit sad and very strange, I headed over to the freshers' fair, where I joined a few societies and started the daunting task of making friends.

    James Hole

    The experience was overwhelming. I remember the fair feeling this way nine years ago too, but for some reason I think I was more confident back then, maybe because I saw it as an opportunity to reinvent myself. Nine years ago I never actually stuck with any societies, due to getting pissed and sleeping it off instead, but I signed up for Ultimate Frisbee, Cheerleading, and Quidditch (yes, Quidditch!) regardless.

    After the fair I went to the student union bar, and despite some rusty social skills, I approached a group of freshers having lunch. Fortunately, they were open and friendly, and told me they were planning a house party at their halls. Feeling like a creepy old lady, I invited myself along and we swapped Facebook details – and, weirdly, those of Instagram, which didn't exist when I was a student. They told me that they usually swap Snapchat and Twitter details too.

    If I didn't already feel old as fuck, I certainly did now.

    While taking a walk after the fair, I met two freshers, Lewis and Ben, who both lived in Park Village – my old uni halls.

    James Hole

    Ben (left) came across as pretty confident for a fresher, insulting my dress sense at one point – "If you're gonna be a fresher you probably should change your clothes" – and chatting to me about Tinder and how he adjusted his settings as soon as he stepped on campus: "Radius: 2km and age range: 18-22 – done."

    I had wondered about whether Tinder was something university students actually used, but several people explained that it if was being used, it was being used mindlessly, with no real intention of meeting anyone. As one guy put it: "Why would I need to use Tinder at university, where I can meet people all the time?"

    I was glad to see that students weren't being completely sucked into the virtual world as I had feared, and that the way you met people on campus was still fundamentally the same. It was as easy as it was ever going to be for them and I was happy they knew to take full advantage of that.

    Lewis was more shy, but he did tell me his plan for the evening – cooking a meal for himself for the first time ever.

    Went food shopping with a Fresher. This was his trolley. #sussexfreshers #freshersweek #sussexuni

    With the help of a YouTube video (which I definitely don't remember using nine years ago) and a phone call from his mum (which I do remember needing), Lewis made a rather nice carbonara.

    Later that evening, on the way to the house party, I met a girl named Su who was finding life on Sussex campus difficult because "there are too many trees".

    Even though her comment made me burst out laughing, as a fellow Londoner I knew exactly what she meant. Sussex is gorgeous, nestled in beautiful countryside, but it can be quite a shock for the urbanite.

    Su also told me that she was finding it difficult to bond with her housemates, most of whom weren't from London and seemed to have completely different views to hers. It all felt very familiar, as my uni house was exactly the same. I told her that was exactly what was great about it – meeting people that weren't like you, and learning from each other.

    Another thing that hadn't changed was just how flaky students are. The next few hours were spent jumping from one fresher house party to another, because students can't seem to stick to plans.

    Remee Patel / BuzzFeed

    Which is very bad news if all you want to do is drink your fucking wine in one bloody place.

    Eventually we settled on a house party at Swanborough, and after chatting drunkenly with about a million different Freshers, I bonded with a group of guys from London and followed them to a place I was glad to see hadn't changed one bit – East Slope, still known for holding the wildest, grimiest parties on campus.

    When we got there though, it was utterly dead. Everyone still seemed to be at the club. However, keen for my first night to be epic, I was determined to wait it out for an afterparty.

    But I suddenly felt so old, and the idea of waiting for two hours to go to a party at 4am seemed ridiculous. All I wanted to do was eat some chips and go to bed, and so that's exactly what I did.

    Remee Patel / BuzzFeed

    Everyone else had already been out a few nights on the trot and there I was, my first night and I already couldn't hack it. I told myself that it was because of the spontaneity of it all, that I was frustrated and tired because it was all too disorganised for a "responsible" adult like me, who puts every social event in her gmail calendar.

    Although I had met some brilliant people, I couldn't help but dread the next few days. This was going to be hard.

    Sian Butcher / BuzzFeed

    The next morning I woke up at 10.30am feeling like the world had done a massive shit on my head. But I had plans to make, so I eagerly started texting all of the fresher contacts I had made the night before.

    Remee Patel / BuzzFeed

    Having forgotten that no real student would be up before midday, I was disappointed that by lunch, I still hadn't received a single reply. I headed to campus anyway, where I was pleasantly surprised to find a street food fair.

    Remee Patel / BuzzFeed
    Remee Patel / BuzzFeed
    Remee Patel / BuzzFeed

    We never had food fairs in 2006. My delicious wrap and brownie cost me a total of around seven quid, and although it felt great to eat something a bit more wholesome (well, apart from the brownie), it did make me wonder: What student could afford to eat like this?

    Pleased to have finally eaten something that wasn't completely beige, I went in search of my old uni house.

    Remee Patel / BuzzFeed

    I knocked on the door hoping to get into my old room, and it was opened by a dishevelled girl still in her dressing gown. She told me the guy in my old room wasn't up yet (surprise, surprise) but after a chat, mentioned that they were having drinks at the house before the Pier Party (the freshers' event on that night). Once again feeling like someone who hadn't quite let go of their youth, I asked if I could join them and we swapped numbers.

    Later, inevitably, those plans changed, and I found myself at the Pier Party all by myself.

    Standing on my own at the Pier bar, I decided to risk looking like a cougar and chat to a guy ordering a pitcher of a bright red cocktail. Before I knew it, I was sitting with his entire house at their table playing drinking games.

    Remee Patel / BuzzFeed

    As we played Never Have I Ever and Questions, I was surprised to see that drinking games hadn't really changed at all – they hadn't been replaced by some sort of phone app. It was as if I'd been transported back to 2006, and, enjoying the feeling immensely, I let go of my inhibitions.

    It wasn’t long before I'd spilt wine all over myself, and of course the freshers wouldn't let me leave to go and change, so it was straight on to the club.

    Remee Patel / BuzzFeed
    Remee Patel / BuzzFeed

    We spent the night dancing around like complete maniacs to "Trap Queen", "House Every Weekend", and "Shutdown", songs the freshers don't yet know will become so nostalgic to them years later, the way that "Rudebox", "SexyBack", and "Put Your Hands Up For Detroit" are for me every single time I hear them.

    From that point on, I don't remember much, except that I lost my passport and made out with a 24-year-old in the smoking area because he had giant arm muscles.

    Remee Patel / BuzzFeed
    Remee Patel / BuzzFeed
    Remee Patel / BuzzFeed

    Shots, clubbing, getting off with a man wearing the tightest T-shirt in T-shirt history – these were all things I hadn't done since I was on the "right" side of 25. Being among the freshers, I found myself willing to making a tit of myself in order to bond with them, and I had a great night because of it. It actually felt good being so carefree and in the moment, having the confidence to chat to everyone and anyone with such reckless abandon.

    For the first time I didn't feel like a twentysomething constantly worrying about edging closer to 30. I was 27 going on 18 and it felt good.

    Sian Butcher / BuzzFeed

    The next morning, although I felt like complete and utter shit again, I woke up knowing I now had a new squad and a place to hang: Flat 25, Swanborough.

    Remee Patel / BuzzFeed
    Remee Patel / BuzzFeed

    When I turned up to the flat, deep in my pit of despair, they were all eating their lunch without a care in the world.

    The only other person suffering after last night's craziness was Tiff, a postgrad who, like me, looked like she wanted to crawl into a hole and die.

    When I asked the freshers why they were so chipper, they all had the same response: "I never get hangovers." To which I just laughed. Maniacally. I told them how it would all soon change and that hangovers would get consistently worse for the rest of their lives.

    Of course they didn't believe me, but then again neither would I had some 27-year-old grumpy grandma told me my during my freshers' week that hangovers would become three-day affairs.

    I hung out with Tiff and Georgia for the rest of day, snuggling in the "duvet nest" they had made on the sofa. Time flew by so fast that I ended up missing an important event in my freshers' calendar β€” the Ultimate Frisbee trial.

    After dinner, Flat 25 received a message from the WhatsApp group the gang share with another flat below, saying that they were going to play the drinking game Centurion.

    Remee Patel / BuzzFeed
    Remee Patel / BuzzFeed

    I had to drink 100 shots of beer or cider in 100 minutes. Even though I still had a raging hangover and couldn't think of anything worse, I decided to give it a go. After all, that's what a fresher would do.

    By shot 80 I wasn't feeling good. As a 27-year-old woman who hadn't drunk that much cider that quickly since pub golf in 2008, I was convinced I was about to throw up in front of a bunch of 18-year-olds. So to save the dignity the years since uni had given me, I gave up at shot 83. Everyone else, of course, made it to 100.

    The next stage of the night involved everyone deciding to go to Walkabout. It was a place I had promised myself I would never go back to, a place where 18-year-old me once got off with a guy while he was wearing a coconut bra.

    I summoned my last reserves of energy and headed out with them in a taxi. But when we got to the seafront, I just wasn't able to do it. My bed was so close, and even though I had so much fun the night before, I just couldn't handle doing it all over again so soon. Eventually, I abandoned the guys outside Walkabout.

    Instead of doing what the average fresher would do and rave on for another night, I did what I would do. I got two fucking pizzas and I ate them in bed.

    Remee Patel / BuzzFeed

    I felt satisfied that I had given it a good go, especially considering I had had 83 shots of cider so soon after such a heavy night. I couldn't believe how resilient freshers were, how boundless their energy was. Just looking at them made me fucking tired. But then, that's exactly how I was nine years ago: perky and enthusiastic, excited to make as many friends as possible, and never wanting the fun to stop.

    But now I did want the fun to stop. So the next morning, after just three days, and even though I knew I would be missing the foam party (*sigh*), I declared my whirlwind fresher experience officially over.

    Sian Butcher / BuzzFeed

    Freshers now have easy access to all kinds of information I never had, like knowing who they will be living with before they even move into their halls – a result of the Facebook groups the university sets up in the summer for each uni accommodation.


    It made me wonder if this made it easier for freshers to find friends and settle in, but many I spoke to said it didn't really help. "I think just showing up is better," one girl said, "because you tend to prejudge your housemates if you stalk them online."

    I'm inclined to agree with her, and I wouldn't want to think about the sort of preconceptions my housemates would have had if they had seen my Facebook before meeting me.

    Advances in technology have also affected life on campus. When I was a fresher, Facebook was still pretty new, and some of us still used disposable cameras. In 2015 there are myriad apps, from WhatsApp to Instagram, Twitter to Snapchat.

    Remee Patel / BuzzFeed
    Remee Patel / BuzzFeed

    Houses often have WhatsApp groups. In my day, we all spoke to each other on MSN, and arranging social events happened via Facebook and word of mouth.

    Snapchat was by far the most popular app I saw being used by freshers, and I noticed that most were sending Snapchats to friends back home or at other universities rather than to each other. I wondered if this was preventing them from living in the moment and whether they were preoccupied with projecting an image of themselves at university to others outside of it. When I was a fresher, we tended to spend more time interacting in person with our uni friends and less time online with our old ones.

    Yet beyond the technological advances, not much has really changed since I went to university. People still do the same things, go to the same parties, have the same fears.

    The only other thing that was fundamentally different was my personal experience of freshers' week. This time round, I learned how difficult it is to make friends during freshers' week, and how that can make it a pretty daunting and unsettling experience.

    But I also knew that those feelings are transient, because everyone eventually settles and finds their way. Freshers' week, although it can be amazing, is one week out of three years, and you don't have to have the time of your life.

    Going back to Sussex made me realise how grateful to the university I am for giving me not only a fantastic freshers' week, but the best three years of my life.

    Remee Patel / BuzzFeed
    Remee Patel / BuzzFeed

    It also made me extremely grateful to all of the people I met while I was there, in 2006 and 2015.

    But above all, I learned that being a fresher once is truly enough.

    Remee Patel / BuzzFeed

    Almost a decade later, I just could not cope with the intensity of it all. The boozing, the late nights, the junk food, but most of all the need to have constant energy in order to make new friends and project your "best" self. Now that I'm practically 28, I'm pretty happy with who I am, even if it means going to bed at 10pm and telling off loud kids on the bus.

    Being 18 and being a fresher was one of the best times of my life, and although I'm jealous of everything the freshers have to look forward to, I'm happy with my memories. I don't need to relive them anymore.

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