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I think September would have to be the biggest month for anyone about to head to university, but also the smallest. The first half stretches on for eternity as you bite your nails to nothing, the second part is a blip in your life (or worse just a blank) and when you wake up, its October already. Luckily for London-uni-ers, club entry and drinks are way too expensive for you to hit it too hard right? Not this month. This month will be full of wavy tube journeys on your way to and from pres, and getting lost in weird and wonderful places.
In Hindsight, Pre-book Sparingly
For freshers week, or freshers fortnight it should really be, there are hundreds of great deals you can get your hands on so you can go out all night every night. The only issue is that the sheer amount of choice often means that most of your flatmates will all have pre-booked different places, so it’s normally best to just wait till you move in and go with the majority. Last year I was one of the few who bought a Lowercase London wristband. Though I completely advise signing up to their feed, and buying separate tickets to their events, I should not have optimistically spent £70 to go to everything on that week. Not only did I completely flake 3/7, but most of the venues got changed so 3/5 of those nights were at the infamous ‘Egg.’ On top of this, I ended up buying more tickets to follow my friends and ended up over drafting by week 2. Despite all this, I would recommend pre-booking your Uni’s Fresher’s ball because tickets for that are limited and you don’t want to miss it.
Dress Codes Are Law
Coming from a small town in the Southest of Wests, where everyone knew all the local bouncers by name, I was quite unprepared for the zealous nature of London’s bouncers. Not only do they all have these little machine box things that blow up your ugly I.D face onto a bigger screen, which is bad enough, the gates of a central London club are controlled with military precision. Freshers is code red. No queue jumping, not even if the people you’ve joined are genuinely people you know, the only exception being if the queue is about a mile long and they can’t see the end (which happens more frequently than you’d think). If the club is full and two people leave, two people are going in, so you better hold onto your friends or you’ll lose them before the night has even started. If you’ve gotten this far without being picked out in the queue for being I.D-less or too drunk, you better not be wearing trainers. The guy next to you might be wearing his school shoes, and you might be in your new yeezys, but he’ll get in and you won’t. In some clubs, like Shaka Zulu in Camden, the dress code is strictly shirts and dresses. In summary, either do your research or you play safe and dress to impress.
Note: If it's a neon rave, as James in the photo was preparing for, don't wear your best because though they say the paint will wash out; it generally doesn't.
Better to Be a Prepared Drunk than a Hopeless Drunk
Before you leave, check for keys, card(s), cash, and rule 101: CHARGED phone. If you haven’t got a contactless, that sucks, but the (s) is for you because you’ll need your oyster. Unless you live around the corner, that’s ideal. But at some point you’ll need your oyster so always check. Since starting in London, I’ve started using a cardholder instead of a purse for the first time, because you really don’t ever use cash; it’s just cumbersome, and bound to get stolen. But on a night out its always good to have some quids for a taxi, even if it’s been stored in your sweaty shoe/bra for the whole night. That taxi also needs to be licensed, or you shouldn’t get into it. Sometimes unlicensed taxis will hang out outside, so always check, and if you don’t know the number for a taxi text HOME to 60835 and they’ll send you the numbers (save in phone). For most of us it’s a good idea to go for an Uber because ultimately they’re cheaper and you can pay for them using your card; plus you get a free ride if you recommend a friend. Its good to always make sure your phone is in reach, just in case something bad happens. I’ve got the app but I’ve always used a night bus or tube which tends to be fun; just check your route before your leave, because we never did, and it always took forever to get home. Public transport is quite safe in central and tends to be surprisingly full at night, but sometimes buses can be quite empty so if that’s the case its always best to sit near the driver. Finally, walking home does tend to be safe on a Saturday when it’s busy and you stick to main streets where it is brightly lit, so long as you stay in a group.
Clubs Don't Have Maps
Ok, maybe this really is a small-town-thing, but some of these clubs really are way too huge aka. Ministry of Sound or XOYO. But even small ones have their problems, they’re just so full of people that when you come back from the loo and look for your friends they’ve either been swallowed by the crowd or literally swept away somewhere. Solution: either bring them with you, or bring at least one to wait for you, or even better make a meeting point! Then again, you always meet some of the best people on your own, and there is no-one to verify your crazy drunk stories so… it’s a win win really. However, you really don’t want to get lost outside the club on your own because this can be dangerous. I almost had this problem on my first night, when I forgot my I.D trying to get into Camden’s Shaka Zulu. The security guards were being their exertive selves, and ushered the two friends I had come with in without me. They were already going down the escalator, of which there is only a down escalator, and I wasn’t allowed in. Luckily, a friend of a friend was able to take the 40 minute journey there and back for me to grab my I.D. and rejoin them because it was a Tuesday night and the streets are very empty and full of strange people.
Whilst we’re on the oddly serious note, I thought I’d add a quick bit on the kidnapping side. Obviously keep your drink with you at all times blablabla, but really do; though most of the freshers events are targeted at students often they don’t check student status at the door. Also, did you know that cigarettes can be spiked as well? It’s very rare bad things happen, so it’s unlucky if it’s you, but you can minimise the risks further by making sure if you do meet someone nice your friends are happy with you leaving with them; and they know where you’re going.
Detox Before Retox
So many people get so flat-out ill during these two weeks that they are basically dead by the end and they can’t make the final stretch, so pace yourself. Always keep some water by your bed for the night/early hours you return, and preferably some Lemsip. Everyone gets freshers flu, whether it hits them in September or October. My flatmates introduced me to Berocca last year which is a dissolvable vitamin tablet you can buy from boots/most places, and you can have one of those each morning. Stocking a lot of bread in the cupboard is good, and trying to pack in as many satsumas as possible into your diet, VITAMINS. Miso soup, or just any soup, is always good to have in your cupboard for lunch, but if you’re hitting it again that night you want to fill yourself with some pasta or rice before you go out. If the smell of alcohol makes you feel sick, then that's a good indication that you need to take an easy night and will probably end up caring for someone else this time. In the space between however, it’s a really good idea to go explore this beautiful city that you’ve found yourself in. Hyde park, regents part, primrose hill; some of the outdoor spaces are really quiet and perfect for a nap in the fresh, autumn air. Alternatively, museums, art galleries, river walks... you should never end up bored in London. Enjoy it before you're cooped up inside a library with all your essays!