When I knew I was going to university, I had many anxieties about what I would face there: drugs, spiking of drinks, prankster room-mates, sexual harassment, Freshers’ Flu and bullying. I’ve heard a lot of people think that I am paranoid, and looking back I have no idea why! There are several dangers and threats at University that you have to be savvy to. With the most recent batch of freshers joining Aberystwyth these past few weeks, I thought I’d share my top tips for staying safe in Aber, based on my own experience.
Lock your door: This is pretty important. If you leave your door unlocked, you are leaving yourself open to risk of theft, traps and pranks by your flat mates. Not only that, but you don’t want people letting themselves in whenever they feel like it, particularly as you’re halfway through a tub of Ben and Jerry’s and Love Actually.
Take dumbbells to the toilet/shower: An unusual one, I’ll admit, but not entirely preposterous. If, like me, you have mischievous flat mates, then you’ll find it of no surprise that they like to scare you whilst you are vulnerable. Spending time on the toilet or in the shower is a key time for them to strike, and if you aren’t prepared, then expect an intrusive photograph, the light flicked off, or your arse slapped in the shower. Most toilet doors can be unlocked from the outside using a coin or something sharp, so extra measure is necessary. Take some dumbbells, or something equally as heavy, and press them against the door. You’ll keep those pests out, retain your dignity, and you’ll get stronger with every visit to the bathroom!
Carry your key with you at all times: There are two main reasons for this. If you’re on a mad one, and things have a gone wrong – a bit messy, a bit too much, a bit ‘iya’, five too many tequilas – you’re going to be sent home, either on your own or with a friend. It’s imperative that you can get yourself back in to your residence, as deep sleep and/or vomiting is going to be necessary. It is an inconvenience to both you and your friends if you ‘forgot to pick up your key’ that night. Take your key, and prepare for the worst! The second reason is linked, of course, to the mischievous housemates. I was regularly thrown out of my own house in second year, and made to stand outside in the cold as they laughed on through the letterbox. If you don’t have your keys with you (or a pair of shoes on), you’re buggered!
Don’t eat outside: Perhaps the most dangerous element to Aberystwyth life – and certainly the most frustrating – is the army of vigilante seagulls that reside there. Do not assume they pose no threat to you, as these are no ordinary seagulls. Years of practice and observation have put the degenerate birds one step ahead of students, and I am pretty convinced they have their own committee with a corrupt pecking order to boot. They size up and stalk their prey, they pick the best vantage point, and they strike! The monstrous size of them hits you like a wrecking ball, and they will strip you of confidence, pride, and chips. It astounds me that people continue to eat outside on the concourse of the University, knowing that the fiends will attack. Long story short – don’t eat outside!
If a Welshman makes a joke at your expense, just laugh along: It is safer this way. Before the P.C army rain hell and fury down on my comments box, I’ll put a disclaimer in – not all Welsh locals are unreasonable. But it is a well known fact that if you say one thing out of line about Wales, the language or the rugby team, you will find yourself bombarded with a torrent of abuse. Just let them have this one joke, and go about your night.
Don’t leave your drink unattended: This is common sense, but for the students who arrive at Aberystwyth University quite naïve and innocent, it’s worth pointing out. There are a small number of idiots in Aberystwyth who find it fulfilling to drop pills in to your drinks when you aren’t looking, or when you leave them to go to the toilet. These pills can have devastating effects, including hallucinations, vomiting, dizziness, memory loss and more. I have been unfortunate enough – and clumsy enough – to have been spiked in Aberystwyth, and it was a horrid experience; both during it, and the day afterwards. You might think that because Aber is so small, nothing major like that can happen. But believe me it can, and you really shouldn’t leave your drink unattended.
You are allowed to say no: Peer pressure is huge among students, and it is not always the easiest thing to overcome. When you’re at University, the common interest shared by most people is drinking. But it is drinking to get drunk, to go on a mad one, to paint the town red (or more realistically, the colour of your dinner.) This is perfectly acceptable and I don’t discourage anyone from doing it – it’s a fun part of University life, I think. But if you’re concerned about being stupidly drunk, unable to stand or even violently sick, then please understand that you have a right to say no! Don’t accept that extra shot; don’t buy another round; don’t move on to Absinthe. Get to know your limits, and stick to them if you feel comfortable that way. You shouldn’t have to push yourself over the edge just to feel accepted or part of the gang – that’s no way to live your life at University. Drinking and going out should be enjoyable and comfortable.
Those are my best tips for staying safe in Aberystwyth, but you may find that you don’t need them. Perhaps there’s something more dangerous to be aware of? If you feel there is, pop it in the comments box below for others to see.