by Jenny

It had been an overwhelming first week. After her parents' car had pulled away, Bethan found herself alone in a strange city, surrounded by people who all seemed to know exactly what to do already, from how to speak to strangers and where the kitchen was to what was on at the Students Union and which pubs sold the cheapest lager.

She had felt a bit lost until she’d met Lucy from the room across the hall.They’d sort of teamed up, though Lucy could be a bit loud and liked tequila more than anyone she’d ever met. It made her miss Rhian and Eleri and their quiet little friendship with a pang. She wondered if their first weeks had been as strange and scary as her own.

It hadn’t been like she’d expected. There was far less focus on lectures and study and far more focus on drinking and falling over. And so many more jokes about sheep when people found out she came from Cardiff than she could have imagined.

Bethan had only the faintest of accents but she had started to become familiar with the curiosity followed by amusement that flickered across her new friends’ eyes. Cue jokes about inbreeding and sheep shagging and rugby.

They’d worn thin quickly. Bethan thought a few times about just leaving, she’d never liked being the centre of attention. But Lucy seemed to enjoy the rowdy jokes and heavy drinking, maybe Bethan just needed to relax. Besides, she had nowhere else to go.

She thought of nights giggling in the City Arms, chatting in Welsh, and the easy companionship of people who’d known her forever with a stab of sadness.

She had suggested going to the Union. It seemed brighter and cleaner than the pubs where she and Lucy drank with the other people they’d sort of fallen in with; more people and better music, but none of the others wanted to go, so Bethan stayed quiet and tagged along. It was better than being alone.

They were drinking in The Red Lion again. Lucy had gone to buy a round, but found her pocket empty, so Bethan had stumped up to help her out. Again. She had been nursing a pint of lager and lime for an hour when the group of third year rugby players came in with their blow up sheep and joke shepherd's crook. Bethan knew it was just a matter of time before the Welsh jokes began. She shrank further back into her corner.

It did no good. Before long they were enacting predictable indecencies on the toy and asking Bethan rude questions about her parents.

And just like that, she’d had enough. She didn’t want her entire university experience to consist of following dickheads around, waiting for them to make fun of her. Suddenly she didn’t care about going off on her own. It was scary, and it would hardly be the City Arms, but it had to be better than this. There was only one way to find out.

Without a word, she pulled on her coat and strode up the hill towards the Student’s Union and beyond.