I’ve been looking at photos on social media of friends taking their offspring on the tour of university open days.
This is the first year in a while that I haven’t undertaken that task myself. My older son is firmly ensconced at art school and the second awaits the results which will determine whether his destination is Cambridge or St Andrews.
I love university open days for lots of reasons:
- I get to feel less pessimistic about the future. I am reminded that there is hope and opportunity in spite of the veritable socio-political, red, white, blue and orange shit storm around us.
- I get to indulge in nostalgia. If nostalgia was a chocolate eclair, I’d be face down in it with cream smeared right up my nostrils.
- I get to marvel at what universities look like these days. Lots of university buildings have been refurbished. (They were barely furbished in my day.)
- I get to pretend that I’m actually there to find the right tutor to supervise my proposed PhD in Nora Ephron. (I want to hear my husband call me ‘Dr.’ But let’s not talk about that now.)
- I am reassured that there are still plenty of young people and their parents who clearly reject fashion.
- I am reassured that there are still plenty of young people and their parents who are unaware that Punk has died.
- I am further reassured that the Goth aesthetic is alive and well and is common now in both Executive Youth and Actual Youth. And that baldness is no barrier.
- I get to play the game of ‘Try Not To Judge Those People’ when I meet fathers wearing long socks and sandals accompanying sons wearing bow ties who want to study Natural Sciences. (Turns out not everybody thinks Unnatural Sciences sound more fun.)
I’ve toured lots of universities, including my own undergraduate institution: the University of Warwick. You know the one. Massive campus in the middle of nowhere, off the Coventry bypass.
The old Union building has gone. In its place is a spanking new ‘Students’ Union Atrium’ with accessible Students’ Services offices and signage in primary colours. (Primary colours in a higher education setting upset me.)
“Where is the filthy, sticky carpet that should be here?” I gasped. “Where are the grubby, beer-and-fluids-of-unknown-origin-stained seating that should be right here? And where are the half-dead, pallid, under-nourished students who should be draped over the tables? And who has dropped a small town on the spot where my university used to be?”
Don’t go back. Go forward.
We went forward to Cambridge University where we were shown around by some Natural Scientists. Good at answering questions about the course, less good at eye contact.
There were lots of boys with hair cuts only a grandparent would approve of and way too many bow ties for my liking. But this is where you come if you want a career with KPMG, right? Do. Not. Judge.
It was hard to play that game though. Especially when we were told there were no ovens for students’ use in college.
“But baking is how I de-stress!” wailed a girl on our tour. I think my eyebrows may have risen, but I remained silent.
The one question which came up on every university tour without exception concerned bathrooms.
“Will I be expected to share a bathroom?”
It never occurred to me as an undergraduate that en-suite bathrooms for students were a thing. Because they simply weren’t back then.
All the new-build accommodation we saw had en-suite bathrooms.
Which might be why Warwick can charge in excess of £180 per week for some of its rooms. Like, OMFG!
And most students do not expect to share a room.
Which makes me a bit sad.
My very best friend is the girl I shared a room with for two years. Sure, she kicked me out from time to time (as I did her) and yes, she also shared her Athlete’s Foot, but I wouldn’t change that experience for the world.
If you can’t share a room or a bathroom, what hope do you have of sharing anything?
Kids, my advice: share a room. It’s cheaper, it’ll make you more considerate and less lonely. But stock up on anti-fungals.