Dysfunctional family? Here’s why

As the new academic year draws to an end, Anya Gera reflects on the oddities of the college family system

Anya Gera

Happy families!Ilustration by Niko Kristic/Background by Manuel Will on Unsplash

Fresher’s week; a name memory test. Sifting through hundreds of faces in a week can be debilitating to say the least. The repeated repetition of your own name so many times it begins to sound odd, seeing faces which you know you’ve been introduced to, yet no name coming to mind. You are reduced to looking at them suspiciously up and down hoping to catch a glimpse of their CamCard or even just the label their Mum has sewn on sticking out of their jumper. Does the college family help you through this traumatic process? Violet investigates…

I guess the first place to start is the college family tour around Cambridge, occurring on the first day of fresher’s week. Thought this activity was special to your own college? You thought wrong. Walking through town and seeing clusters of groups of four or five dotted around everywhere, you realise that your parents aren’t the only ones who like Sunday morning outings. It’s mayhem – frantic, wide-eyed Mothers who’ve lost their children in the crowds, Fathers with disappointment in their eyes as they realise that they didn’t get the most attractive college children. This madness, however, is probably the most wholesome your family will ever get.

What is your relationship with your college family? Are you friends? Acquaintances?

After a week of family dinners with strained conversation, awkward ‘pres’ in your college parents’ rooms and nights out ending at 11 pm as your college parents remain sober enough to exercise their parental duties – what is your relationship with your college family? Are you friends? Acquaintances? You’ve obviously established some sort of relationship - even though you may not necessarily have chosen these people out of your own accord, the week of ice-breaking has led to at least some warmth, but at what point does warm get steamy?

The college family system almost makes it too easy – rates of sharking have skyrocketed since the introduction of the college family with only predictions of increase in sight. It’s a case of big shark, small pond – but this incest doesn’t solely have to remain cross year. In my own family, there is only one member who remains unaffected by the college family wrath – when will the last soldier fall?

However, what are the consequences of all of this? Are we creating an environment whereby we are almost normalising incest? Having a friend come up from another university, we were sitting in Fitzbillies when a girl next to us tells her friend in stage whisper that she ‘slept with her Dad last night.’ My friend looks absolutely astounded at which point I realise that I am completely immune to this phrase to the point where I probably wouldn’t notice if it was said in an ‘out of Cambridge’ context.

Are we hindering the friendship making process? Does the time that the college family takes up in fresher’s week prevent people from making more friends they are ‘naturally’ drawn to? The majority of people I have interviewed reported that they would not consider their college parents their friends and about half are friends with their siblings. Does this mean that the college family does not really facilitate the formation of any relationships that wouldn’t otherwise have occurred? Is the college family doing more harm than good?

If this wasn’t enough to digest in the first two weeks; it’s now week three and you’ve realised all your potential college spouses are being snatched up and the scramble starts again.