Moving away from home, waving goodbye to Mum’s home-cooked meals and fresh laundry, and leaving behind the friends that you have known for far too many years certainly sounds like a daunting experience…that is unless your next destination is university halls.
Returning home for summer (amongst the now rather battered and burnt pots and pans) the most valuable thing that I am bringing back with me is a year’s worth of brilliant memories…although whether my liver agrees with that is another thing. I always thought I would enjoy university, especially since I started watching the channel four series ‘Fresh Meat’, but I didn’t know that someone like me – rather girly and tidy and who likes to see everything kept in its correct place – would fall quite so in love with the infamous student lifestyle.
People often ask me what it is about my first year that I loved so much. For me, nothing answers that question better than explaining to them how our flat of twelve very different personalities transformed from being exactly that, flatmates, into the friends that we are now, being able to finish each other’s sentences and knowing far too many intimate details about one another.
Politeness was the order of the day when we first moved in. We were neatly stacking our plates in our designated cupboards and making sure that we only took up exactly one shelf in the communal fridges. We then gathered around the kitchen table and began getting to know each other with the usual small-talk, sounding rather like a group of would-be hairdressers: “How many siblings has everybody got?” “Did anyone go anywhere nice on holiday this summer?” “What subjects did everyone do for A Level?” And once we had exhausted those, we even managed to move onto discussing our favourite shampoo brands with one another. But the days of heated debates over the comparable qualities of VO5 and Herbal Essences quickly made way for something quite different.
Social etiquette became less important as we all became more acquainted. The days of “Oh could I borrow a dash of milk?” quickly lapsed. When someone mentioned that they were going home for the weekend, the rest would descend en masse to their cupboard like the ravenous workhouse boys of Oliver Twist. The phrase ‘more please’ was definitely absent as we gleefully claimed the goods as our own. In a matter of weeks, we were grabbing a mattress from someone’s bedroom, dragging it into the kitchen, and all piling onto it to watch films and play countless paper-and-pen-based games for hours on end, blissfully ignorant of the lectures we should have been attending and the number of kitchen maintenance rules we were breaking, of course.
Evidently, at university, all luxury foods are classed as fair game, and for that reason you quickly learn what I like to call the tricks of the trade. The politeness I mentioned on move-in day was short-lived, and milk became the equivalent of gold. It wasn’t unusual to venture into the kitchen in the morning to find that the milk you had purchased the evening before was already mysteriously half empty. And so, I quickly realised that pouring fresh milk into an out-of-date milk bottle was the key to keeping your dairy safe. Members of the sacred cereal family – Coco Pops, Crunchy Nut and Krave, to name a few – were sneakily placed into the more undesirable Cornflakes boxes, while the discovery that empty nutella jars could be washed out and transformed into trendy cocktail glasses certainly proved a useful one. One flatmate of mine even wrapped his plates in cling-film each time he had a meal. He was economising on washing up apparently.
I quickly came to realise that nothing could really surprise me at university. Walking into the kitchen to find someone eating duck for breakfast, for example, is just one of those things you learned to accept, embrace even. After all, not everyone was fortunate enough to discover the milk trick.
If I was given the opportunity to do first year all over again, I would do it in a moment’s notice. Living with friends that are sure to be there for the rest of your life, embarking on all sorts of random escapades at all hours of the day and night, and meeting a variety of characters along the way is a lifestyle which I would not change for the world. A favourite past-time of ours was assigning ridiculously unimaginative nicknames to those we encountered around campus on a day-to-day basis. I mean, it’s unlikely that there will be another time in my life that I will hear the sentence “I saw boy with blue hair when I went to do my laundry.”
I had my reservations about going to university when all the publicity over the rising fees hit the news, but I could not be happier with my decision. It must be the only time in your life that you aren’t judged for watching a whole television series in one day, moving from the comfort of your bed only to retrieve a slice of day-old pizza, ordered at 3 am the night before from the notoriously unhygienic, but very much student friendly, fast-food establishment, which now regretfully has you down as a regular.
So if you’re filling up your parents’ car and taking a drive down one of England’s motorways this autumn, good luck. You really have got the best time ahead of you.
Written by Hannah Ferry