And just like that, Freshers Week – the cause of the subatomic dread that's been curdling your guts all summer long – is here. Worse still, you've just realised you are a massive square and you've never really, actually, properly been in a nightclub before. That's OK. I'm here. We are all here for you. Nobody's laughing. Not really. That was a cough.
There are plenty of reasons why Freshers Week might bring with it the first night out of your life. Maybe you've grown up in a rural nowhereland that only boasts a bingo hall and the sort of pub where men sell horses in the car park. Perhaps, up until now, you've spent your Saturday nights penning lengthy comments about human consciousness underneath Westworld fan theory videos. Maybe your parents enforced a strict 9PM curfew. Or perhaps you've been caught in one of those horribly claustrophobic teenage relationships which has turned the past two years of your life into a joyless cycle of rutting, selfies on bridges and texting your way through family dinners.
Whatever the reason, you're here now: damp palms wrapped meekly round a tin of Thatchers Gold, staring down the loaded barrel of your first absolute rager. You've probably had something close to a night out before – there was the Year 11 prom, the time everyone got jacked up on stubbies after your Aunty Karen's birthday barn dance – but this is the real deal. You haven't heard of these DJs, you don't have Uber on your phone, and what do you mean "I thought 'Ring of Fire' was a Johnny Cash song"??
You are standing on the precipice of the next 15 years of your life. Within a year you will have a residency on an internet radio station and a burgeoning coke problem, but now – right now – the magic and the mystery is all ahead of you. Here's how to handle the pitfalls and piss-stains of your first proper night out.
HEY! WHICH NIGHT SHALL WE GO TO GUYS?
The first choice to make is which night to go to. This is Freshers Week, so an Actual Good Night isn't your concern. Close that Resident Advisor tab immediately – think less Young Marco and more Mark Wright. Best bet here is pretty much following the crowd; after all, the only reason you're preparing to drag yourself across a pedestrianised town centre in a onesie is in an effort to meet some people who'll keep you company for the next three years of your life. Yes: foam parties, traffic light parties, geek nights at clubs called Crush. Sadly you have to do whatever everybody else is doing in the name of fitting in. Refuse to engage and risk ostracising yourself, becoming the "OK but a bit up themselves" shadow that haunts the halls corridors late at night.
Someone will probably hand a menu of awful events to you when you first arrive, so just hang back and mutter questions about how late the busses run while everyone else makes the hard decisions. And don't panic. This long week of T-shirt giveaways, blue vomit and crippling anxiety is only your entry point. You'll be pouting it up at a lo-fi house night above a vegan cafe before you know it.
HOW MUCH SHOULD I DRINK?
Great, you've been invited to pre-drink with the flat across the hall – but oh no! How drunk should you get?
I sort of want to suggest: hey, don't overdo it because you might be sick on someone's face before you've even called a taxi. But I'm also acutely aware that the one thing you don't want to be during all of this is sober. Asking someone to do Freshers Week sober would be like asking someone to endure dental surgery without anaesthetic. What you want is the sweet spot that allows you to talk about yourself confidently without tipping over into self-importance. You want to be laughed with, not be laughed at. In other words, drink two cans of Holsten Pils (offer the other two out), two shots of Sambuca, a couple of rum and cokes and hope for the best.
Beating "crippling debt" and "setting up your email account" to the number one spot, drinking games are empirically the worst thing about university. Sadly for insecure people with a deep and earnest desire to prove what a total motherflippin' legend they are, they are basically the only social sledgehammer in their tool-box. You don't need to worry unduly – most drinking games only last about 12 minutes before everyone gets distracted by toilet breaks, or by "You Can Call Me Al" coming on a Spotify playlist.
Expect: someone having to drink a dirty pint of Tabasco and cider; someone to spill cranberry juice over your nice playing cards; whoever suggested playing the game in the first place to get very frustrated that people aren't following the rules properly.
OH, SO YOU WANT TO SMOKE CIGARETTES, IS IT?
Please for the love of god almighty practice rolling in advance. There is nothing more ignominious than sheepishly proffering a pube-bouquet to the lads from flat 14.
Coke: definitely not – you're still young enough to have pent-up self-important conversational energy completely without assistance.
Pills: nope, you'll end up telling someone you've known for four hours that you can definitely see a "special kind of friendship to remember blossoming here matey".
Ket: no, no, no. Your new friends don't want to spend the first big night of Freshers Week peeling you off the floor like a disused sock puppet while you mumble incoherently like you've got a mouth full of Cheerios.
Acid: are you completely insane? Of course not.
Weed: I smoked a particularly strong spliff during my first week at university which sent me to my box-room to contemplate the shapes that were crawling up and down the curtains. I went so off-piste, so deep into my own, dark universe, I ended up downing the bottle of Newcastle Brown my dad had left with me as a settling in present, before vomming it straight back up and collapsing into a shaken, fearful sleep. So, yeah, going to say maybe "avoid for now".
HOW TO 'JUST SAY NO' TO DRUGS
I'm not saying you shouldn't take any drugs at university – alright, dad! – I'm simply suggesting that if Freshers Week is your first real taste of unbridled hedonism, it will be a more manageable, pleasant experience if you pace yourself.
However, this policy won't be adopted by everybody. Every flat has a haggard, yellowing boy or girl, who despite being born the right side of 1995 looks like Salad Fingers in vintage Moschino. They spent the summer bouncing between Split and Budapest, and you've lost count of how many times they've shown you that blurry photo of them with Chabuddy G. Next thing you know, the couple of cans in their room have escalated into crushed crystals. You want to pull the parachute chord and get out there, but how?
– I don't want to write off tomorrow night, but thanks.
– I'm knackered, but thanks.
– I'm alright, but thanks.
– No, but thanks.
– Mum would kill me if she found out.
– I'm mad enough without the gear!
– I have a drug allergy. I am allergic to the drugs.
– Nah, cheers but I'm gonna pass, big man, better be getting back to bed, gotta buzz the missus first thing, anyway you take care, yeah? See you lot about tomorrow, alright buddy, cheers.
– Will I get the munchies?
– I am reporting you to the chancellor.
The knee-jerk assumption here might be that dancing in any form is a bad idea. I disagree. I think standing in a nightclub not dancing is always a worse look than bad dancing. It makes you look like you think you're "above fun", which is a terrible vibe to give off. Don't go hell for leather, obviously. Stuff like dabbing, moonwalking, the worm and the splits is probably best left to the King of Comedy who's been on a one-man banter burnout mission since 9PM. Let him take the hits. Let him attempt and fail to start a limbo competition, let him start the Jeremy Corbyn chant from the balcony overlooking the dance floor, let him drop out before January to work out what it is he "actually" wants to do.
Just nod in time to the music and don't do gun fingers if you can help it.
Part of Freshers Week is having your photo taken about 60,000 times by bored club photographers or Philosophy undergrads you'll never speak to again. At the start of the week, spend a couple of weeks working out what your "thing" is – a mild toothy smile, a sincere pout, a vacant, clenched-jaw "oh you're taking my picture what?" – so you can bang the same pose out every time. Try your best not to do anything too "wacky", like get your nips out or lick someone – the internet never forgets. Oh, and while we're at it, the time has now come to delete your mum on Facebook. That "Looking fab xxx" comment is going to melt your soul pal, trust me.
PULLING, COUPLING, SHAGGING, ROMPING
The basic rule is: try not to sleep with your immediate flatmates. Remember, you're going to have to spend the next year boiling stuffed pasta in front of them. Also, try not to hook up in front of everyone, unless you fancy becoming the Coventry campus cause célèbre.
I promise it won't always be like this. Going out: it's actually great. The night – shifting, mercurial – will take you to some amazing places. You will feel pleasure pound through you in ways you never thought it could, and hear music that'll scrape the skin from your bones. You will wear out trainers, make plans, miss trains and carry on for days. You will disappear into the night, into yourself, and return somebody new. For now, though, please put on this slutty Minion costume, thank you.
This is the one time in your life when you can eat completely heinous things and nobody will bat an eyelid. It's the end of the night. You've made it. Treat yourself to a fried chicken pizza, or some chips with cheese and lamb livers. Salt and vinegar?
Mission accomplished. Text your mum to let her know you are alive, down a cup of tea and have a couple of paracetamol. By 7PM the dulcet rattle of a Four Tet Boiler Room will be pinging from the breeze block walls, and thus begins the dance again.