It was a glorious day on Sunday, and I decided to go for a wander outside to enjoy the weather. Across the road there were a group of five people who were moving into a house. Everything about them screamed ‘student,’ from the items that they were carrying out of a small white van, to the way that they were dressed, and it made me smile, particularly when they sat outside with bottles of beer and cigarettes after they had finished. Watching those people (while doing my best not be be obvious as a nosey neighbour, which I blatantly am) brought back memories of student days. I remember the student accommodation I lived in during my first year…
Then I realised something – it was fourteen years ago that I started university.
I did everything a little differently to most of my friends after sixth form college (for 16 – 18 year olds) had finished. Instead of applying to a university, I knew that I wanted to go to a music conservatoire instead – I had played the violin for ten years by that point and had decided that my dream career was to be a session musician – and so I took a gap year so I could audition, earn some extra cash and spend a little more time studying baroque instruments with my A Level music teachers. My audition was on 6th November 2000 in Birmingham (I’ve never forgotten the date for some reason), I fell in love with the city and was I ecstatic when I was offered a scholarship for the following September. The first thing that I did after receiving my acceptance letter was to visit the local Woolworths (which those of you over thirty in the UK will remember) and purchase two cooking pans, a matching plate and bowl and a cheap cutlery set, despite it being ten months before I was going to move away. I worked as a supervisor in a nightclub during the week and every time I got paid, I bought something else.
Ten months later, I was standing in my Halls of Residence. My belongings had fit into the back of a Ford Mondeo (eventually, after my father had inevitably lost his temper), my sisters had grunted a goodbye at me and we had made a two and a half hour journey where my mother was trying not to cry. My box room was part of a shared accommodation with nine other people – there was a bathroom per two rooms, with a single kitchen and lounge area. The building was old, my bathroom was mouldy, my mattress had a plastic covering on it and there were cigarette stains on the ceiling of my bedroom from the previous tenant. My mother (who has always been a clean-freak) was quietly trying not to have a heart-attack at the state of the place, discretely taking out cleaning products and scrubbing brush and blitzing everything that she could get her hands on, despite my protestations. There was a welcome pack hung on my door – it contained a Pot Noodle, some lollies, some stationary and a condom, which caused my mother to freak out even more.
After they had left, I went to the window and had a cigarette while I surveyed my new territory – my parents didn’t know that I smoked at that point and it was the first time where I didn’t have to worry about the smell being obvious. In fact, it was the first time where I could do anything I wanted – it was an overwhelming feeling of freedom. Within an hour I had unpacked everything. Looking back, I realise how little I had in the way of possessions – I had no TV or computer and my phone was a Nokia 3210 (which I affectionately called the brick). There was no Internet, no Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram – they didn’t exist – all I had was a CD player and a stack of CD’s, my kitchen items, a mirror, my clothes, a hair dryer and brush, some make up, bed linen, towels, my favourite twenty books and a couple of memory boxes that I had created over the years. I adorned the walls with photographs of friends and family and posters of my favourite singers. I made my bed and finished the cleaning that my mother had started, and then went to the pub with some of my new housemates.
I can honestly say that that point was the cleanest it was all year…
I regret that I have no photographs of that little room, because what followed was one of the happiest years of my life. It was small, it was basic, but it was mine, and I bloody loved it.
What about you guys? What are your memories of student accommodation?
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