Even though I am now a third year at Nottingham, the memory of Freshers’ Week with its trepidation of meeting multitudes of new people and its chaos of going out every night is not far behind me. Most of all, I remember the Week One Reps – those figures of awe-striking authority with their endless enthusiasm and easy confidence who helped to guide me through my first week of university.
Last Thursday, I got to re-live Week One mania for one night only when the Cripps Hall Reps let me join them for their hall’s night at Ocean. This time I was going to be on the other side, discovering the real challenges behind the fundamental job of Week One Reps to provide a great (and safe) fresher experience.
I arrived at 7.30pm to meet Harry, Dan, Helen and Gina and preparations were already underway. Cripps had been given an undesirable early slot of 7.45pm to leave on the buses to Ocean, so we had to round up the Baywatch-clad first years pronto. “Hopefully there’ll be some taking the bus,” Helen told me. “But a lot will be getting taxis.”
It’s fair to say that Helen’s estimate was pretty much spot on.
We arrived at Ocean just after 8pm, and one of the Week One team’s biggest challenges of that night became immediately apparent. Ocean is situated on a very busy junction in Broadmarsh that suddenly becomes very dangerous when groups of potentially pissed students attempt to cross it. We spent at least half an hour with Reps from other halls lined up along the pavement making sure there were no reckless dashes across the road to get to the club.
Other Reps arrived to take over and eventually we were all good to go inside. Like the bus, Ocean was pretty dead at such an early hour, but the Reps weren’t going to let that deter them from doing their job and having a good time.
It’s important to note that Week One Reps aren’t allowed to drink throughout the week and only get 3-4 hours sleep a night due to a daily 8.30am compulsory meeting every morning. You can imagine then how impressed I was with the way they threw themselves into the Ocean spirit. As well as taking care of the first years, Harry explained a large part of their role is getting the freshers hyped to make sure they have a good night, and that largely involves a lot of dancing. The Reps really enjoy doing it as well.
At around 9.30pm, though, it looked like one fresher had hit the booze too hard too early. Dan had to do a taxi run to take him back to halls . “We’ve been quite lucky – this is only the second from Cripps we’ve had to take home all week,” Gina said as we saw them off. “I’ve heard some horror stories from other halls though.”
It seems that the theme of (fairly) responsible behaviour continued that night for a while as Ocean filled up. Apart from a lost and shortly recovered new Phone 5S, there wasn’t much that my Reps had to deal with for a couple of hours. When I spoke to a few Week One Execs outside, they said Monday at Crisis had been the most crazy night, while subsequent events had been quieter. Perhaps it was a sign of freshers’ flu setting in.
Or maybe it was the calm before the storm. From 11.30pm onwards, freshers began to move towards the buses to return to halls and the consequences of drinking since 7pm were evident. Bin bags were on hand by all to catch untimely puke and the frequency of attempted careless dashes across the road increased. Reps took turns to man the pavements, do the bus runs and look after those struggling on the streets. Together with the Christian Union (who I had bumped into earlier giving out sweets in the Ocean toilets), the Reps worked tirelessly to ensure everyone got home safely on a bus or in a taxi with a biscuit and plastic cup of water in hand.
At one point I was part of a group of Reps that chased after a couple in the midst of a blazing row (in Icelandic apparently) and I couldn’t help but admire the authoritative way they handled a tough situation. Despite the language barrier, the Reps broke up the argument, and because the guy had stormed off, they made sure the girl got home safely in a taxi.
When I left the Cripps Week One Reps at 2am, I felt like my eyes had really been opened to the work that they put into Week One. They give up a week of their busy second year lives to help freshers find their footing, and look after them when they lose it.
When you’re a first year, you may be focused (quite rightly) on making friends and enjoying yourself. However, it’s definitely worth taking the time, either now or in the years afterwards, to fully appreciate the multi-faceted, difficult but essential role that Week One Reps have.