A reflection on the cliques around campus, and the dangers of believing stereotypes…
Glasgow Uni isn’t quite like the colleges you see in American rom-coms, as I’m sure you’ve realised by now. You’ll rarely find yourself choosing to sit with the scholarship jocks or the band nerds, and the high school cliques tend to dilute themselves by the end of your first semester. This does not mean that there aren’t clear stereotypes here, though. As a practising main character, I often tend to sit alone on campus, watching the other (re-)freshers pass by, and asking myself “what kind of students are they?”
The loudest and proudest folks you’ll encounter here are perhaps the musical theatre buffs. They never shy away from telling you that they do musical theatre (which you’ll be able to tell already from their Hamilton sweatshirt), and often they’ll burst into song without needing a request from anyone - on occasion, a ukulele is uncovered for accompaniment.
Theatre folk tend to run in the same circles as the over-committed over-achievers: always found in the library, starting assignments in September, and thriving solely on coffee and stress. These ones often appear to be preppy and full of life and vitality, but don’t be fooled; this prep will be stripped from them as soon as they get a B2.
Conversely, the most initially intimidating group you may encounter will be the 24-hour party people. These are the people that ignore assignments in favour of pub crawls and gaffs until two days before the deadline. In this group, you can easily get drunk, get high, and develop an intense smokers’ cough at the ripe old age of 19. As a prior member of this ‘clique’, it gives me a phantom hangover and heartburn just thinking about it.
"...the most initially intimidating group you may encounter will be the 24-hour party people..."
I would write a little bit about the intense GUSA members, but I genuinely have not encountered a rugby boy that I’ve spent more than 5 minutes around. Sorry guys.
As previously explained, as a first year I found myself firmly integrated into the group of partiers. I wasn’t particularly popular in school - it wasn’t common for a gaff invitation to be sent my way - so it was initially refreshing to experience this life where people actually wanted to get drunk and stay up till sunrise with me. Though it was fun initially, over time the fun wore very thin, and I became quite ill; I unintentionally lost a lot of weight, I was blackout drunk at least three times a week, and I didn’t even know what buildings I was meant to be going to for lectures by the fourth week of class. I hadn’t realised, but the drinking culture associated with uni life had hit me hard.
I think one of the main reasons I stuck so hard to this rigid grouping was because of my prior expectations of socialising at uni - I had fallen victim to the stereotype mentality, and wanted to be cool and respected. It wasn’t until my second year that I fell out of this way of thinking. I branched out, found some other pals that appreciated how hard I was finding it adjusting to university, and helped me instead of enabling self-destructive behaviour. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still friends with my party people, but I learned how important it was to find a balance, for the benefit of my health and my grades.
If I’ve learned anything useful over my time at uni (and I’m sorry to inform my lecturers that it’s nothing they taught me), it’s that over-studying is just as bad for you as over-drinking. Over lockdown, with an absence of pubs and gaffs, I threw myself into my coursework, and became so obsessive that it once again made me ill with anxiety. If I didn’t get an A, I was crushed. Although my liver was clean, my heart was, more often than not, racing. I think it’s only been in the past six months that I’ve finally found a balance between reading and raving, and what a journey that’s been.
"I think it’s only been in the past six months that I’ve finally found a balance between reading and raving, and what a journey that’s been."
It’ll be different for everyone, but my main advice for students, new and old, is to find your balance early. It doesn’t matter whether you feel cool or smart or whatever, it’s important to keep yourself healthy. Reject the strict limitations of stereotypes, and just explore uni in a way that makes you feel good.
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