I’m back from a Christmas of family dinners, awkward conversations and eventual mind-numbing inertia and the first thing I decide to do is re-immerse myself in the bubble of St Andrews. I’ve been away for a while, and now I need to get stuck back in, sort out details and check my committee group chats. First things first, I check my Facebook, and what do I see?
“Tickets available now!”
“Give-it-a-go on Saturday! Come along to try this cool…”
“Come meet us at Refreshers Fayre!”
Oh, Dear God.
Refreshers Week – I’d forgotten about that…
See, I didn’t use to have a problem with Refresher’s Week. In fact, I thought it was a damn good idea to start with. People so inclined have the opportunity for a few good nights out before work starts in earnest; you get an opportunity to try new things you had to give a miss last semester; new study abroad students are able to find something for their interests in one place; societies and sports get new members; people get new interests. Everybody’s happy, right?
Problem is, reality does not match the theory.
Let’s start at the top, shall we?
For a lot of people, the main attraction is the events of Club 601. Sure, they can manage to get some reasonable entertainment (Fuse ODG) but I’m fairly sure ABBA Bop is not original. It’s like they don’t even try sometimes. Yeah, we might be in a town where the only ‘nightclub’ we feasibly have is the Union’s Club 601, but that doesn’t mean we don’t deserve some quality. I acknowledge the hard work of the Ents Team and the lengths they have to go, but when you’re just rerunning old ideas, they can get tired very quickly. Quality is better than Quantity – a few good nights in Refreshers is probably better than a week of non-hitters , and less expensive to boot.
Furthermore, mainly due to logistics, Refreshers is never going to have the hype of Freshers. Having a massive all-week-night extravaganza in the same week you are trying to figure out your new schedule, buy textbooks, stress over rental applications, and more, does not a massive party make. Kudos to those who can do all of that and have time to go out every night, but some of us are actual humans and need sleep, thereby forgoing the array of 601 events for the sake of not ending up mental. Fresher’s Week works for this because it is set in the pre-sessional week where all you are given the time to take in all the fun of Fresher’s without expecting classes and work on top of it. Refresher’s Week is already too cramped. Let’s not try and add more.
And let’s not forget the end of the week. Refresher’s Fayre for a lot of clubs is a waste of time – so much so that some clubs don’t actually book a table, because nobody signs-up anyway. I remember my experience last year where you have, at most, 10 people sign up to a mailing list over several hours of sitting in a stifling room, and end up with no actual memberships, in the end, to show for it: waste of a Sunday. For a lot of people, they’re already set on what they want to do from first semester.
It’s even worse for Sports Clubs, as only a limited amount of them manage to get Refresher’s tables. At the start of the year, Sports Clubs have their own separate Fayre where they can interact and pitch. At Refreshers, most are left with having to promote Give-it-a-Go’s on facebook. Even at the Fayre, they suffer the fate of other clubs and societies – minimal interest with even less membership uptick, especially as Sports Clubs are more expensive than your typical £2/£3 yearly membership for Union Societies. Membership gains are almost non-existent and are usually from events put on by clubs and societies – not the Fayre itself.
Refresher’s Week is a waste of time all-round. There is too much expected, socially and logistically, and too little time to do it in. People just aren’t interested in memberships, with such little uptake that some societies aren’t even willing to try. There has to be a better solution, but it would probably require much more effort than many of us are willing to give. Until then, we’re stuck with a tiring, exhausting and fruitless week.
Joy of joys.