Sticking Up for Students Was a Lot Easier Before a Drunken Gang of them Formed Outside my Window Ten Minutes Ago

Being a student means a lot of things to a lot of people.

To my mother, for example, being a student is about being in the prime of your life, about freedom and enthusiasm and new experiences. It is about being fresh and young and staring down a corridor of open doors. It is about turning up receptive and sponge-like and leaving with a cranium brimming with knowledge and intellectual fervour. To my mother, when you’re a student you are in the salad days of youth. I don’t know about salad days. I think cup noodles and beans on toast would probably be more accurate.

Well, what a surprise, hearing another student moan about something. Next thing you know you’ll be dodging fire extinguishers and helping me convert ‘Tory Cuts’ into a cheeky slogan for my picket sign.

Before you start unwraveling your fire hoses, I’m not here to complain about being a student. For the most part, Mama Burns is right: student life is exciting, stimulating and, in certain moments, romantically bohemian. It is not, however, easy.

Like many cities in the UK, there is an attitude of reluctant tolerance between students and locals. This is understandable. When I wrote for the university paper we had weekly stories of students being asked outside clubs what school they went to, before getting thumped by groups of locals if it was the wrong one. On the other hand, I’ve seen my fair share of drunken students weeing on parked cars/statues/traffic wardens. You can kind of see where the resentment originates.

(To my American readers: have you ever seen a public urinal? Apparently it’s so difficult to keep yellow puddles off English streets these days that they have to actually build these four-person towers for drunken men to pee into. It’s like multiplayer urination. These were one of the first things I saw on my first night out after eight years of living in a country where it is illegal to chew gum and spit on pavements. Of course I used it–to make a stark political statement–two minutes later.)

Sometimes all the blame that gets shifted onto students is a little unfair. Sure we all seem noisy, obnoxious and perpetually inebriated, but that’s only because you can only ever see the noisy, obnoxious and perpetually inebriated ones. The quiet ones are in the library working on their degrees, or in lecture halls actually doing the thing they came to university to do.

The truth is, sometimes people forget that life as a student can be tough. I remember a few weeks before I started uni in the UK I was working as an intern at my brother’s company, and he turned to me during a lunch break and gave me this really creepy far-off look. “You don’t realise,” he said. “That you are about to enter the easiest part of your life.”

In a sense he was right. On the surface, students have it made. They are young and innocent with oodles of free time and a whole city of pubs and clubs to explore. The problem is, there’s only so much exploring you can do with an empty wallet.

Most students get a sizeable grant, either from the government or their parents. Very few students I know are properly poor, even those who are self-funded. Even so, spending is always tight. The phrase I’m a student has now become instant waiter code for No drinks, thanks, we’ll just have a couple of tap waters.

Alright, you may be thinking, O pity the poor students who have to forgo the Evian when dining at Daddy’s restaurant chain! You don’t realise, however, how soon the life of la bohème wears off, kind of like how on the first night of camping, eating straight out of a frying pan is really fun, but by the final night you are gagging for silverware.

It’s the little things. Walking everywhere, instead of forking over £2 for bus fare. Relying on Sainsburys Basics Everything. Volunteering for experiments in the pyschology department to pay for Christmas presents.

Now, this blog post has suddenly become a lot more ranty than I intended. The truth is that despite the slow weariness of scrimping, student life really can be incredible. Not only have I learned some fantastic things about the subject I came here to study, but I’ve trained myself to be self-dependent, to take responsibility for my actions and to be much more aware of everything I do and buy. Most importantly, I’ve really, really, really learned to appreciate my mother’s cooking and ironing skills.

It’s good I’m starting to get used to this life, because at the very least I can expect another six more years of it, and for the ten years after that, while I’ll no longer be a medical student, I’ll have roughly a quarter of a million dollars of debt to economise myself around.

However, like I’ve said before, the fact that none of this fazes me in the slightest is testament to how stubborn I am about getting through medical school. There is no doubt in my mind that I’d rather love life as a student than hate it as a millionaire.

I’ll just end up really, really good at making beans on toast.

—–+++—–

It makes sense to continue my defense of students by promoting something that they can often be pretty good at: making music. There are a few folky bands floating around Bristol, but one that has been humming through my cheap, student headphones lately is Joyshop, a five-piece collection of sound that certainly makes me want to forgo the £2 bus fare, just so I can listen to their album Casual Sincerity a little bit longer on the walk home. They’re what I like to call ‘Clever People Music’, the kind of music that you know is based on actual key signatures and can be described with words like syncopation and tonality. The fact that their logo is an ambigram kind of makes you want to drop out of university and start a Sarah Palin fan club.

In essence, Joyshop is deep, and the more you listen, the more you’ll uncover, plunging further everytime until you realise you’ve been enveloped in their sound and you don’t know how to get back out again. Suddenly, though, that trail of breadcrumbs doesn’t seem so enticing and you’re happy just to melt in the afterglow of someone else’s genius. Let’s just say, the cup noodles taste a lot better when you’ve got a bit of Joyshop in the background.

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1 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. Karolina says:
    1

    I cannot thank you enough for introducing me to Joyshop! It has become one of my favourite bands. I especially like “Frost” and “Moreish” (apart from those you embedded). And envy has been stuck in my head for days (which lead to some awkward moments in class).

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