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Expectations of a fresher

  • Opinion

Jonny Morrison, BA Chinese 

A trip to an Asian supermarket is always dangerous for me. However, a recent trip to four(!) has left me with a large box now brimming with spices (apparently, as a fresher, I will need amchoor powder), rice, lentils, two free and ambiguous-looking goodie bags, and many, many packets of instant ramen noodles. Such is the pre-fresher panic. All through September people, myself included, go into a “buy everything” mode. I probably won’t need 75m of catering foil immediately but, just in case, in the box it goes.

On a more sensible note, my brother – a final year university student in Birmingham – made the sole recommendation of buying a lot of medicine for the infamous “freshers’ flu.” This is because when 500+ SOAS students move into Dinwiddy House this September (again, myself included), they will likely bring with them all kinds of viruses to which they will possess a natural immunity to. Add that to thousands of people you’ll brush past when out and about during freshers’ week, and that’s a lot of pathogens. Lemsip Max? In the box.

With regards to the size and quality of bedrooms at Dinwiddy, I’ve stayed in enough cheap hotels and hostels to know how deceptive photos and websites can be. So just how much (or rather, how little) space will I have in my room? Well, either way I think some difficult decisions are afoot. Big speaker system or small? And what about clothes? Having explored The Student Room, I know that I must also mentally prepare for fire alarms at 3am, unreliable hot water and messy flat-mates. Leaving home, I can’t tell if I’m going to miss the near constant stream of Friends on Comedy Central, but I guess I’ll have to live without TV, and I’m sure I’ll be happy to live without the £145 licence fee.

A lot of people have asked me if I’m nervous about starting university, especially in London, but I can’t say that I am. I am so excited to be studying Chinese. Before taking my GCSEs, I had always said that I wanted to go into a scientific field, and everyone always expected that of me. However, the idea that one can study something that they really love seems more sensible to me, than spending years building up to a life that has that niggling feeling of “what if.”

My degree choice became clear when I, at 16 years old, spent a month with my friend in Zhengzhou, a Chinese city of no touristic interest. Having no language ability, I realised how much I wanted to be able to get around in China speaking in the native language, and so started seriously investigating Chinese as a degree. SOAS was always top of the list and, despite its imperfections (admin, I’m looking at you), I wanted to be a part of it – its students appear so active in the most eclectic mix of activities that I’ve ever seen. The waiting, shopping, packing and possibility of illness all now seem worth it. In one week, I’ll be a SOASian. And in one year’s time, I’ll be in Beijing. Now that is a little scary.

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