Things that I think and do
You have to be careful talking to recent graduates about student life. They cling lovingly to the notion that all students live in a “university bubble”, and extol the realities of life after education at every opportunity.
Ignore for a minute the fact that no student lived in a cave until they started university and therefore do have some idea of what so-called ‘real life’ entails. I know perfectly well that real people don’t go to two lectures a week and spend the rest of it in the pub or watching Jeremy Kyle.
Some aspects mimic the post-university world – you rent a house, pay bills and have a fairly regular schedule which means you have to leave the house for most of the day – but it’s a poor imitation.
In fact even that is about as far as the similarities go. So you suddenly have to do your own washing and cooking – big deal. That might be Mummy’s main worry when you leave for freshers’ week, but mastering the oven and washing machine is hardly a Herculean labour.
Yes, you have utility bills and rent to pay. But as a student the government kindly lends you lots of money to help you with this huge financial burden. Even though you might have to leave the twenty-year old brandy out of the shopping basket now and then to save the pennies, there’s always a safety net.
Coming back from a year in France – where I was a student but where there is also a minimal student-bubble lifestyle – it’s weird to be back in an English university town. In Strasbourg you studied and lived in the city with maybe 200 other students and the locals. Back here you’re either in university or in the student housing part of the city, and I don’t think I’ve seen a local Yorkshire person yet.
It takes some getting used to that the only reason for going to the pub of an evening is to drink before going somewhere else. Or going just because you can.
I might sound cynical – or just boring – with all this, but at the same time I love student life. I’ve been here almost two weeks now and it’s still a novelty that I can do pretty much whatever I want.
Admittedly term hasn’t started properly yet so this unbounded freedom will become, in fact, slightly bounded. But I can still go to the supermarket at 11pm and buy a chocolatey cereal if I so wish. Who’s to stop me? I’m a cereal maverick.
I hate some of the embarrassing stereotypical student behaviours, such as competing for the biggest hangover the next morning or learning the daytime schedule for at least seven TV channels.
But at the same time I love the immediate and mutual affinity you can have with someone through comparing how much your head hurts and I’m perfectly willing to switch on Comedy Central at midday for two hours of Scrubs.
My previous three years of this have armed me with the knowledge to live out the year in the best way possible. I now know you shouldn’t join thirty societies at the start of the year just because you want to learn street dance or because they were giving out free pens. You’ll go to perhaps two events in October and then spend the rest of the year ignoring the group emails.
I know that start-of-year welcome lectures are more than likely to be a total waste of time, and that to get a power socket in the library you need to be there by 6am (or preferably camp outside overnight).
I now understand that shopping in the discount sections and buying supermarket own brand anything isn’t worth the minimal savings. Buy good food – and cheap fruit and veg from the Muslim market down the road – and make too much of everything so you have something to eat when you can’t be bothered to cook.
A number (let’s say four) of the people I’ve talked to about their outlook on final year (maybe about nine) said that they just want to get this year over and done with. They’ve had enough of studying, they say.
That’s probably because studying gets in the way of the freedom of student life. What they mean is that they want to get the most out of the student bubble while they still can. Because after July next year they won’t be able to go and buy Coco Pops and cider at 2am. And that’s a sad, sad thought.