It is not long now until the start of freshers. In fact there are already hoards of first years beginning to mill around Oadby. Seeing them wander around Asda in a state of bedazzlement as I did my weekly shop was a strange experience, as seems like such a long time ago since I was in the exact same position. In some ways, the past two years has made me rather jealous of the freedom first years have before work and commitments begin to pile up. At the same time, however, I can empathise that for freshers, the start of university is one of the biggest milestones in their life.
I already know that university has had a profound effect on me, but I perhaps never realised the true extent until last weekend. It seems a slight bizarre to have an epiphany while sat in a cramped car as I took my little brother down to start his degree at Sheffield, I know. I can also assure you that there is nothing quite like spending an afternoon in traffic with a box of your brother’s underwear perched on your lap. It hardly sounds glamorous but despite my gripes, the trip down to Sheffield helped me appreciate how momentously university changes you.
I will save you the details of the trip from my little seaside home town to Sheffield as you of course all have your own cramped voyage to look forward to in the next few days and will skip ahead to our arrival at my brother’s accommodation. On the matter of cramped cars, however, I will say that it is a sad thing to realise that most of your life in material terms can be fitted into a Vauxhall Astra. Anyway, after 2 and half hours of so we managed to reach the accommodation and were met with the site of countless students, unpacking their parent’s cars and marching their possessions back and forth to their rooms like a swarm of ants.
While my little brother managed to keep his cool as we made our way to pick up his keys, I found it hard to contain my excitement. In one sense I was excite for him as he had finally managed to get away from our stuffy little home town. In another respect, I was excited by the hustle and bustle of hundreds of strangers, all slightly nervous about meeting countless new people. I felt at home, yet also a sense of satisfaction in the fact knowledge I had already run this same social gauntlet and survived.
After picking up his keys and proceeding to give his room a once over we began the somewhat arduous task of ferrying his stuff from the boot and up 3 flights of stairs to the room. As the room gradually filled up with boxes it was weird to think this nice if not sterile space would become my little brother’s home for the next year. Although you never really think about it, it’s strange to think that most of your university life is spent hopping between spaces that are never really yours and getting used to the thought of being alone in them.
I didn’t really have time to dwell on this, as we then made a fast dash to a nearby Asda to do the fateful, goodbye shop. I was in my element as I slung jars of Pataks, toothpaste and bin bags the trolley. I know it must sound a bit peculiar, but I was actually really fulfilling to help advise my little brother about whether to buy 80 or 160 Yorkshire tea bags. My ability to masterfully navigate the supermarket made me feel like I had learned something of tangible worth in my time at university. In a truly benign way, the banality of shopping for myself had empowered me.
After the shop was all said and done, we return to halls against an even thicker stream of traffic than when we left. We made the trek up to the room to unpack the shopping before going for an ice cream. As I sat arguing with my brother in the line about what your favourite flavour says about you, it dawned upon me realised that this would be one of the last times I’d see him. Of course there would be Christmas and Easter holidays, but by then he would no longer be the same little brother I would come home to and tell stories about my drunken attics or misuse of fireworks. A little melodramatic I know, but by the time I would see him again he would be a different person.
As I walked back up to his room, licking my ice cream I actually felt a little sad about it all and as I came time for me to say goodbye. As I got in the car to head home, my dad began to voice his concern about him. Would he be alright on his own? Who he is happy? It’s at that point I realised that I had really been brooding about nothing.I remembered how just 2 years ago I been in exactly the same position and become a much better person because of it. Sure university would change him as it had changed me, but it would be for the better. I told my dad to stop worrying and as we cruised down the motorway I realised that not only had the trip to Sheffield confirmed what a great opportunity university is, but how much I had changed since I was sat in my room alone waiting for people to arrive. Likewise all the freshers I saw meandering in Asda would be different people and so, hopefully will all of you when you finally arrive this weekend.