The start of the academic year can be daunting for Freshers, but have you ever spared a thought for a poor old fourth year? I’ve just returned from my year abroad in Germany, and coming back to Leeds feels rather strange. After saying emotional goodbyes at the end of second year and pretty much feeling like I’d left, here I am, back again, with another 9 months until I graduate – ahem, hopefully.
Apart from a handful, most people I knew during my first two years have graduated, and walking round campus seeing so many new faces is a bit like being a Fresher again I suppose, except that Tiger Tiger seems a lot less appealing, and I can’t help getting shirty when people ask me if I’m in first year. Note: Freshers, I’m still too young to want to look younger. Although, that said, maybe I am starting to get a bit of an age complex: seeing so many people in ‘Leavers 12’ hoodies and realising that a lot of them were born in 1994 is making me feel ashamed of my ’09 Uni email address.
Little changes around campus are a bit bewildering too, such as the hot dog stand in Essentials and new bookshop opposite. Also it seems that while I’ve been away, the University has decided to inspire a sense of freedom in its students, renaming Clarence Dock ‘Liberty Dock’ and having built the ‘Liberty Building.’ All in all a rather cruel move, a potent reminder that Uni is probably the last sense of real freedom that we’ll ever have in our lives.
Although the Uni provides plenty of meetings preparing you for the culture shock of moving abroad, there’s nothing to help you with the reverse culture shock, like accidentally cycling on the wrong side of the road – let’s just say it’s a good thing I wasn’t driving – or trying to shake hands with everyone I meet (as is customary in Germany), receiving a confused look and cautious hand in return. Having done a work placement whilst abroad and therefore no academic work whatsoever, I’m also a bit doubtful about my ability to come up with intelligent and coherent points in seminars, never mind put them in to writing in order to get a good, degree, job, life, etc!
After all that stodgy German food I decided that it’s probably time to get back in to shape, and as sport gives me disturbing flashbacks to the grimness of P.E. lessons at school and coming last in the 100 metres I thought I’d opt for dancing. I went along to a class with my housemate and we decided to go to the social on Friday night. After getting asked a couple of times whether I was a Fresher and(begrudgingly) keeping shirtiness to a minimum, we had a really good night. As I danced the night away with people I’d just met, I remembered that this is why Uni – especially Leeds – is so good; it doesn’t take long to make new friends and feel right at home, whether you’re Fresher or fourth year.