A time where a lie-in was always post 10am, and your only responsibilities were to try to remain free from STIs and severe alcohol poisoning (as well as getting that scroll bit at the end obvs).
I am often guilty of looking back with heavily rose-tinted specs and seeing my life at Uni as the best days of my existence so far. Which is a bad habit because it doesn’t always make me very ‘glass half full’ about the future.
I was reminded of that golden time recently whilst watching the last ever series of Fresh Meat – which I have absolutely loved and am still in mourning for its loss. Not only was the final series just as funny and true(ish) to life as the first two, but it also brought home the unlimited sense of possibility which being a student promotes – you really do feel like the world is at your feet and you’re finally old enough to get out there and grasp it.
Uni is the last stepping stone before you leave the fish tank and hit the big outdoor pond of life. Parents send you to school, then (unless you have a divine intervention about what to do with your life at 16 – which I definitely didn’t and still don’t now) you go to Uni. It’s the next logical step, but what doesn’t dawn on you at the time is that it’s really the last logical step before you have to decide ‘what next’ for yourself.
At the time however, you’re blissfully unaware of this and far too busy worrying about how you’ll focus in your lectures with a raging hangover, tell your assignment buddy you’re madly in love with them or find out what the hell the Harvard Referencing system actually is…
Skip forward a few years from graduation and the carefree days of Uni only come back into focus via random updates from Timehop (which constantly makes me feel old and boring) or when you have a get together with the gang who went through it all with you.
You don’t remember the strain of studying, catching every illness under the sun, vomming (a lot), making bad choices when it comes to sexual partners or the general malnourishmen of your dietary existence. You just remember the best bits, the bits you don’t want to forget – the bits that made you feel invincible. But isn’t that same with everything?
I remember sitting in a ‘welcome lecture’ on my first day, listening to the head of the business faculty. He told us that in our very first week, we were likely to make friends with people who we’d stay close to for the rest of our lives, and even meet our future husbands or wives. PAH I thought, not me. But as luck would have it, I did, and I’m still with that same curly-haired boy ten years later.
Thing is, nobody says that to you on your first day at work, when you really are petrified. Nobody gives you a pep talk and tells you its all going to be ok – its sink or swim. Especially if like me, you decide to go into one of the most competitive industries in the UK, full of bitchiness, egos and back stabbing! Simples I thought, as I headed off to my first London agency from the security of the shire…WOW. What a wake up call those first years were. But I made it.
So yes, in terms of lack of responsibility, overall fun times and the carefree mentality of someone closeted from the real world – Uni IS as good as its ever going to get. But, as the characters of Fresh Meat discover, Uni is also a pretty big gamble in itself. If you were fortunate enough to graduate at a time when a 1st in English Lit was seen as desirable by most employers, and fees weren’t through the roof then the satisfaction of your graduate prospects would outweigh the risk…today I’m not so sure.
If my fictional future child came to me at 17 and asked if they should go to Uni…my answer might not be the same now as it was when I graduated. Which makes me a bit sad.