The Fresher's Fairs on Tuesday and Wednesday were arguably the busiest, most packed events I've attended this week so far. On Tuesday, many of Sussex's student clubs and societies presented themselves in a bid to recruit some of us first-years. And boy, were there many of us - and many of them, too. There really is something for everyone, from fencing to films, from pirates to politics, there's so much to choose from that I'd be surprised to find anybody at all who couldn't find at least five things to sign up for.
Despite Vice-Chancellor Farthing's advice, I didn't actually go and make a fool of myself, nor did I sign up for anything completely new. I did sign up, though: For some of the more obvious ones, like the LifeSci and Neuroscience societies, clubs for cycling and walking, and of course the choir, because I just can't live without making music. And for some whose activities I'd considered or tried before, but never really found an outlet for, like meditation, crafts, gardening, and roleplaying. There were various other groups I considered and might yet join if I find I have the time and inclination, like one of the writing societies, a more obscure sport like archery, martial arts or fencing, or maybe one of the many left-wing political groups. To be honest, however, I'm rather afraid I might have to cut back already; I meant to do a bit of part-time work or volunteering as well, and as yet I still don't know how much time I'll even have during term-time.
But back to the Fair: It was packed, it was busy, it was fun. Most of the societies were presenting rather than promoting themselves, which was very pleasant and made the event feel like a market where you'd browse, gather details and maybe compare before making a commitment. Besides, the fair being outside, there was reasonable breathing space, you could move about quite easily without pushing and shoving.
Wednesday's "Brighton edition" of the Fresher's Fair stood in stark contrast to that. This fair for some reason being located indoors in Mandela Hall, the first challenge was squeezing in... only to be assaulted by overly loud music and obtrusive promoters whose only goal, so it seemed, was to get us drunk every night. Couple that with too little space between stalls, and it essentially became a freebie gauntlet. Certainly, it was also worth visiting, with the more pleasant half of stalls presenting a range of local businesses and cultural institutions that involve things other than deafening noise and inebriation; like the Brighton Dome, cinemas, the odd charity and other useful providers. Having scribbled my email address on a few lists more than seems smart in hindsight, I squeezed out bearing a bag full of more or less useful stuff and a heap of paper waiting to be sorted out later.
If not for a friend dragging me along and being her don't-turn-anything-down-unless-it's-annoying self, I would probably not have taken a single leaflet nor left my email address anywhere. And although sorting through the many things today turned up just as much rubbish as useful information, the respectable pile of flyers and booklets from the latter category sitting next to me right now tells me I might well have done a lot worse. What a blessing to have friends!
Speaking of friends - another made me aware of a very interesting neuroscience talk down in Brighton on Tuesday, and subsequently saved me from a rather sticky situation when I misjudged the contents of my wallet. (In case you're reading this, don't think you've escaped getting a drink quite yet!) The talk was hosted by Café Scientifique and featured Sussex's own Dr. Anil Seth presenting some of the as yet unanswered question in the science of consciousness. Though I learned little new, having read into the topic for some time, the issues were delivered in a highly interesting and accessible way. And though the event was in no way related to Fresher's Week, it meshed well with my academic induction, subject introduction and meetings with my academic adviser, further stoking my anticipation and enthusiasm towards getting started at last.
On the subject of friends, however, I'd like to add another glimpse into my past. These past few days, I must have broken my previous record in friend-making multiple times over. I've mentioned previously that I used to be very shy. As a child, I would often stand by myself, too afraid to engage with anybody. In school and other group settings, I usually had one person I'd call a friend and without whom I'd feel rather lost among the crowd of students. Outside of school, I spent much of my time alone, reading books or discovering the outdoors. In short, I was a real loner. Later, during my studies and especially in Berlin the last two years, I've gradually improved, though I remained a hermit for the most part.
Being a loner certainly had its benefits, some of which carry over to the present day - such as that, since I'm so used to being on my own, loneliness is a rare sentiment indeed. And of course, I've done some rather extraordinary things all by myself, one of the most extreme and exciting being a three-week hike from my home in Switzerland across the Alps to Venice. But it's only now that I've come out of my shell and can and do open up towards anybody I come across that I realise just how much I missed out on.
A lone adventure has limited value besides the immediate fun and the storytelling aspect, and the latter requires listeners - friends or otherwise - who might appreciate the stories. A social adventure, on the other hand - and be it just a chat over a drink - forges connections, builds friendships that might last a lifetime; it widens my horizon and expands my network of people who may, at some point, be useful to me, or vice versa, in some way; it opens doors like nothing else. And in a weird positive feedback loop, good things start happening as if by magic. I might be exaggerating a little here, but in a strange turnaround, I find it terrific to be around people, especially those I don't really know yet. I'm probably high on oxytocin (a hormone involved in trust, among other things), but damnit - I'm just having too much fun socialising to put on the brakes!
With that - and a last glimpse into my very recent past still waiting to be unveiled - until next time,
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