Moving away to university after a long summer of waiting is an exciting, yet nerve-racking time. Having studied at Newcastle University for three years prior to moving onto the Westminster Campus, I had a good idea of what to expect from the ‘Fresher’s period’.
Since moving into halls ten days ago, I have made a conscious effort to watch the processes of friendships blossoming and one moment in particular really got me thinking about the politics of new friendships, particularly those made during fresher’s week.
Diet Coke explosion
On Thursday of last week I saw two students, who can only be described as the sort of people who would queue overnight for a newly released Warhammer set, leave the hall in the pouring rain armed with: a shopping trolley, two packets of mentos and two bottles of diet coke. They had the age-old plan to drop the mints into the bottle and in the process cause a rather tame and uninteresting chemical reaction which sees the diet coke fizz up into the air.
After performing the experiment the ‘scientists’ continued to act half their age by throwing bottles of coca-cola into the air and chasing each other around a piece of grass which was about half the size of a tennis court.
After the event had run its course, I approached the long-haired Warhammer fanatics and asked a simple question, ‘guys, what made you decide to do that?’ Still clearly thrilled by their successful experiment and feeding off the small crowd that had gathered to mock them, the geeks replied in high-pitched, overexcited voices ‘we are bored and we have got shit loads of coke’.
My feelings about this response were summarised by a fellow onlooker by the name of Bilariki Dicky. Tricky Dicky demonstrated his undeniably dry wit as he turned to the pair and said, ‘If you have loads of coke why don’t you go around offering it to people in the hall. At least that way you might get some friends rather than people just thinking you are two wierdoes.’
The point of this story is that the two students splashing each other with coca-cola were experiencing a real moment of bonding and therefore were not interested in making friends with others. As they kicked and threw the bottles and chased each other around like 12 year old boys who had just discovered water bombs, nothing else mattered to them. They had not a care in the world.
Throughout the week moments of bonding have been commonplace around the halls of residence. What made the ‘diet coke explosion’ stand out as one of the strangest was that it did not involve the usual ingredient in ‘student bonding’. Alcohol.
When we think about fresher’s week essentially being a big piss-up designed to be an ice-breaker and to get new students talking and bonding, the coke explosion seems to be a rare and fascinating thing to have witnessed. Despite everyone else in the hall gathering to laugh at the Warhammer twins. They were the real winners because they had bonded over this moment, that is really all that matters in terms of what an individual needs to gain from fresher’s week.
In a sense, in that one special moment these two people have bypassed all the challenges of starting university. I feel privileged to have witnessed the start of what could blossom into life-long friendship and look forward to seeing how their relationship develops over the coming weeks.
By Nick Higgins