3.0 / 5
So results are out and now, you can really start getting excited about uni. But, if you’re anything like me, that excitement is paired with apprehension. I’m a survivor of Freshers and I’m spilling some tea about the extra experiences I had as a Fresher of Colour…
Consider all the microagressions of racism you’ve experienced across 18 years of your life in a week – that’s Freshers. The rest of my Freshers Year was less densely packed with this but I thought I’d list a few things that you might experience as a Fresher of Colour:
Whether its a potential friendship, partner or colleague, some people will assume all POC know each other and will ask you to introduce them to random people on campus that you don’t even know. If you do know them all, congrats on reaching BNOC status but either way, this just gets annoying. Don’t feel bad asking the person to stop and tell them to get Facebook, Tinder or LinkedIn.
At uni, you meet people from all across the UK and the world. Some people have never interacted much with POC and think that, in their imagined utopian “postracial society”, the world is colour-blind. Expect questions as clueless as “wait… there are different types of coloured?”
Remember that you’re under no obligation to constantly explain yourself and to validate your experiences to others. Set your boundaries and don’t feel bad to say no. If you want to help people find information, you can signpost blogs and videos that you resonate with. (This is also not your job.)
Cooking in a shared kitchen can be a great way to make friends but, as a Fresher of Colour, this can bring on extra complications. With cooking methods and traditional dishes that may not be the norm for everyone, some people take it upon themselves to ask 101 questions or even criticise your cooking. These conversations are not worth your time and, next thing you know, those same people will want personal cooking lessons and to have a “taste” (read: a whole plate of your food). Here’s a tip: when BBQ season comes around in Term 3, don’t agree to cook for all of them.
Some people will purposely provoke you, wanting you to play into certain stereotypes. If you feel like you’re being antagonised in a space, you most probably are. Follow the advice of Jordan Peele and get out. Know that your emotions are valid and find people who respect you enough not to make you feel otherwise. Refusing to discuss your identity with certain people or even cutting people off can be hard but it can also be an essential part of your self-care. Figure out what methods of self-care work for you and be unapologetic in looking after yourself.
Don’t get me wrong, Freshers is great but the reality of navigating certain spaces as a POC can be interesting to say the least… To help you along the way, find a community that you can turn to when these things arise – I was lucky to find support from a very intersectional Anti-Sexism Society, a next-level-woke Anti-Racism Society and the amazing Black Women’s Project at my uni. There’s also ACS (African Caribbean Society) and ASoc (Asian Society) and lots of similar societies at other unis. If it doesn’t exist, create it because other people probably want it too. But, most importantly, enjoy First Year – you’re only a Fresher once.
Good luck and best wishes,
A Black girl who survived First Year.