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If Your Child Can't Handle Fresher's Week Then Maybe You Should Rethink University

25/10/2016 14:34

The article quoted leading independent school head teachers saying, "Students think Fresher's week is a waste of time and money and would prefer to start courses straight away than spend the first days drinking."

OK, I get the drinking thing; as a generation young people nowadays want more alternatives to getting drunk and going clubbing, but to suggest that meeting your fellow students in a new environment is a waste of time seems a bit of an overreaction to me.

The headmasters go on to say, "There is concern about Fresher's week being culturally very clunky. So the teetotal, faith-based female student, who wants to enjoy fresher's week at a venue where you can't say no to drink - that's definitely an issue."

So it's not the drinking really, it's that students feel they can't say no to a drink! The article goes on to say how anxious the students get moving from a structured to a non-structured environment.

On reading it left me with one thought, if a child can't handle Fresher's week, feels that they can't say No and needs much more structure, then maybe they are not ready for university.

For me this article stems from a growing and in my mind dangerous trend of middle-class families over-protecting their child for the fear of them feeling even slightly uncomfortable.

Of course these children find it difficult to say No; their parents have never put them in a situation where they have had to.

I have seen parents drive hours up to university to wash their children's clothes at the weekend, take them out of university a few weeks into term because their child is having difficulty making friends and even buy apartments near them so they can be closer to their children.

I wonder if perhaps the problem isn't Fresher's week at all; perhaps it is the fact that a lot of university students are ill-prepared to do anything alone because they have never had to.

My child, now in her second year, found Fresher's week a challenge; she is not much of a drinker and a truly introverted character, but she went to as many events as she could, even though she felt uncomfortable, because she knew that socialising and meeting new friends was part of the experience. Not all of these events involved alcohol and often she just said No if she didn't want to drink; no one thought any less of her.

We can try as much as we like to protect our children form uncomfortable situations for ever and for me Fresher's week, while challenging for some, is a chance for your child to push themselves outside that comport zone and learn what they are capable of themselves. Yes, sometimes they will hate it.

Sometimes they will want to curl up and cry and it might make them very anxious but it is all a necessary part of going it alone. They can't say no to a team day at work because they are afraid they might be asked to do something they don't want to and haven't learnt to say no yet.

I know how anxious and alone some children can feel at university - I work with them day in and day out - the anxiety and depression they feel is real and palpable for sure. But we won't make them feel any better by giving them a pass to opt out of life. They need to learn to deal with their uncomfortable feelings, to find a way through themselves and to be in a supportive environment where they feel cared for. If they can't feel this at university it may not be the right place for them.

Sure, universities have a long way to go in supporting young people who are more introverted, who feel more anxious and find social situations difficult. Something a lot of them are not doing a fantastic job at. But getting rid of Fresher's week because some don't like it and find it difficult to not follow the crowd is not the solution.

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