Booze, buddies, boogie and boredom. Chris Johnston samples the ups and downs of freshers' week. University administrators may think freshers' week is for helping new students settle into unfamiliar surroundings and prepare themselves for the academic year. But first-years have different priorities.
During freshers' week (or fortnight) 1996, there has been no shortage of events to choose from. At the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology last week, freshers enjoyed a welcome disco on Monday night, comedy on Tuesday, a drinks promotion night on Wednesday, the Kiss It Club Tour on Thursday night and the freshers' ball on Friday.
For Rebecca, Louise, Lucy and Caroline, the union events offer a chance to unwind and forget about the two-hour queue to pick up student cards, department inductions and supermarket shopping.
They share a flat in the halls of residence and are all taking a crash course in Manchester geography. Apart from the university, they say their main points of reference are pubs.
Alcohol plays a major role at freshers' events. Students arriving at London Guildhall University's freshers' fair are greeted with a free bottle of alcoholic soda to fortify them against the barrage of companies, clubs and societies. The free condoms are presumably for use later on.
One society hoping for a more successful freshers' fair is the Guildhall Rugby Club. Last year, after an altercation with members of the Islamic fundamentalist group Hitz ut Tahrir, the administration closed the university for the day to avert violence. Spokesperson Andy Wilton says the incident affected recruitment. This time, the rugby types are wearing ties and not getting too drunk in an attempt to smarten up the club's image.
Bristol University students can join the Chocolate Society, the Mr Man Society, or the Fish Society: "We're not really sure what they do," a student union spokesperson admitted.