Before you depart for uni, a classic line from your mates back home is that they'll come up and visit. Plenty of beer, top notch food, maybe a Manchester City away day. But what with the extortionate prices of rail travel and the inconvenience of time off work, this never works out as well in practice as it seems to in theory. Anyway, reading week provided me with the perfect opportunity to do a tour of some of my friends’ unis. Here I will refer specifically to my trip to York.
This proved to be quite an interesting experience. At this point I should probably add that my accommodation in Manchester is fully catered, and that any idiosyncrasy in the ordering of my bedroom unnerves me. I digress. The first challenge I had to overcome was meeting my friend’s flatmates. All seven of them. In one go. It was like freshers’ week, without the security of knowing nobody remembered my name either. Of course in freshers’ week, inane conversation was the norm. In this environment, I wanted to appear wittier and more intelligent than someone whose sole interest is confined to the subject you're studying. That was issue one.
Issue two felt even more novel. We made dinner. For many people nestled in the safety of catered accommodation, this is a very alarming prospect. Thankfully my friend is a very good cook, but this left me with a substantial amount of time in which to entertain myself. I decided that it was probably best to try and lend a hand. After all, I was getting a free meal. Bad idea. My incompetence showed, and I was quickly relegated to cheese-grater. Obviously this had its time limitations, so quite quickly I found myself lingering in their kitchen/living room/pre-drinks room. This was quite anxiety-provoking. Where do I sit? I am in the way there? The answer to the latter, I would say, was quite unequivocally yes.
As it happened, we had an extremely tasty dinner, only tainted by the Subway I had indulged in at Oxford Road. Drinks were an issue, as at this point I realised that dish-washing in the flat was undertaken at a “Just-in-Time” rate. Unfortunately I only realised this after I had consumed some strange-looking residue suspended in my water. The others had no such problems. Thursday, 6pm, a guy next to me – amusingly a Physics student – was sipping vodka with his dinner: bacon fried in golden syrup. I doubt he would have noticed any irregularity in his drink.
It was the Walter White variant who was the first student to offer me drugs at university. Drug dealers reside outside my block on a fairly consistent basis, but the peer pressure mentality of drugs was new to me. I just laughed. MD? No thanks mate, I’m not even past lemon and herb at Nando’s. It was at this point a few of us decided to go and play FIFA, and I was faced with another challenging decision. Do I go all out and destroy my opponents? Do I reveal how sweaty a FIFA player I am? I chose to show restraint. 3-0. 80% possession. On the plus side, I was at least fitting in a little more.
It was far from the first night I had been anticipating, but provided a necessary insight into what living out is likely to become next year. I will enjoy my two meals a day while they last. There are hard times to come.
Reuben Cutts writes about student life for The Manchester Magazine. He is a first-year Geography student at the University of Manchester.