Friday, October 06, 2006

The Coldest Feet

Velvet Empire is finally a student again. Having spent the past six years since my undergraduate graduation hankering for the security of the university environment and thinking, “Oh, if only I had the chance to do it all over again”, I’ve finally got the chance. It’s been a year since I first applied, but now it’s freshers’ week and it’s all kicked off. But predictably, I have a few complaints…

Birkbeck, University of London, is not a traditional university in that it is a college for mature students – ie, because everything is done in the evenings, the feeling of community of a more conventional university is absent. But you make of that what you will. However, as a result, the student union is rubbish – as I felt compelled to tell the union president last night (a little more politely – evidently he didn’t entirely hate me as he promptly asked me if I’d like to be editor of the university’s glossy magazine!).

Fresher’s Fair was a damp squib of an event. Having coughed up £10 for my NUS Extra card (as if students don’t have enough strains on their finances), I perused the clubs and societies. Having established there wasn’t even a copy of the student magazine, never mind a representative, I was left to choose between joining either the Fencing Club or the Tory Dining Society… and chose to leave in a huff instead.

But I have my two new friends Paul and Rebecca, who I met at the school disco-esque welcome drinks last week, and we went for a pizza afterwards and expressed our mutual horrors at how shabby the university is in reality and how we were all getting cold feet… but we’re all also hopeful it’ll wear off once we actually find our feet.

And last night I had my first lecture. The first hour was spent sipping warm white wine while the various lecturers introduced themselves, and the second hour was spent being told to introduce yourself to your neighbour… and then to introduce them to the rest of the room (and guess who had to go first). All well and good (apart from the public speaking), until the third hour when guest lecturer Peter Nicholls from Sussex came and spent an hour telling us about the modernist poet George Oppen.

It seemed a bizarre choice of first lecture to me – as Oppen is not on our syllabus, we have had no previous introduction to modernism and Nicholls, who sat at the front so we couldn’t even see him, talked in such an unbelievably dull monotonous drone that it was impossible to listen. I ended up spending an hour practicing my shaky shorthand skills, doodling furiously and watching the hands of the clock go backwards as I wondered if it was all a terrible mistake. (Fortunately, it turns out no one else understood a word of it either).

Sitting on the No 24 on the way home, I was forced to question if I could face ever going back. I’d spent three hours watching the PHD professors who will be my guiding lights for the next two years and on the whole I was led to believe they were a bunch of socially retarded freaks. One guy was even manically stepping backwards and forwards as he spoke to us, with an inane grin on his face and leather patches on his elbows. Is this what I want to become???

1 comment:

Paul said...

Boffins... Love them and all their strange character quirks! Bet they used to be Goths in a past life...