Friday, 7 October 2011

My first day of school

I sat huddled in the corner of the lecture theatre trying to pretend I was invisible as scores of third year undergraduates poured into the pews pushing me further and further into my seat of ageing oblivion. I don't belong here do I? What am I doing in a lecture theatre surrounded by twenty year old students? I must stick out like a sore thumb, sat there with my bought-not-borrowed course book and the keys to my mortgaged house and bought-outright car in my bag right next to the keys that let me into the building I've worked in full time for the past eight years.

What am I doing here? I feel like such a fraud. Any minute now someone is going to turn around and ask what the hell I'm doing here, then they're gonna call security and have me escorted out like a charver caught shoplifting in JD Sport.

But then the Professor walks in and launches rather excitingly into an 'Introduction to the Social Policy and Society module' and my fears quell as everyone's attention is thankfully shifted to him. He's quite a lively fella and I immediately get the impression that I'm going to enjoy his classes. He's the Professor of Social Policy at Durham University and introduces the module with an eager infectious vibrancy; just what I need to get me right into the thick of this course.

I know there aren't many postgrads on this module compared to undergrads but I only recognise one other person, Rachael who I met at induction on Tuesday but my corner-huddling worked against me as she'd managed to come in and sit down without having seen me so I'm transported back to my first day of school where no one knows me and no one wants to speak to me because I'm the weird looking kid who doesn't belong.

Professor Greener is still introducing the module and announces that he has a module guidebook to hand out but that there are different ones for undergrads and postgrads. I already have one, I printed it out at work thanks to my continuing paranoia that I've forgotten something drastically important so when I saw it on DUO (Durham Online, Durham Uni's version of Blackboard) I printed it off along with every other minor snippet of information available for my course at that time for the fear that I'd be castigated and given a dunces hat if I didn't. As it turns out I was far better prepared than many having already read through the introduction lecture and module guide and having already bought the set module book which Prof G has just told everyone they need to get hold of before next weeks lecture.

He hands out piles of the undergrad module guide and asks the students to pass them round and then announces that the best way to hand out the postgrad ones is for the postgrads to make themselves known so he can give them individually.

I put my hand up along with the five other postgrads in the eighty-strong room. A mixture of embarrassment, pride and hubris wash over me all at once as for the first time the magnitude of my situation hits me. I'm a postgrad.

I really am. And I made it into my first choice university without any question of my abilities. I think that justifies my brief moment of self-importance, don't you.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011


Today is the day after yesterday, and yesterday was my inaugural trip to Durham University.

I had to take a day off work (unpaid) to attend the postgraduate induction day during which I was introduced to the department staff, got the chance to meet some of my fellow students and collected my campus card which gains me that all important access to the library. However yesterday was also the first day of the Freshers Fair and never having been to any freshers events (with never having actually been a fresher) I felt almost obliged to pop my head in and see what all the fuss was about.

Firstly let me just reiterate that I'm 31 years old. Now despite not feeling it, I probably look it so being surrounded by 'real' freshers was a daunting prospect for my ageing neurons to cope with. But nevertheless I persevered and set off on the surprisingly short pilgrimage from the SASS (School of Applied Social Sciences) building to the students union building. On the way I passed numerous young-uns handing out flyers and free stuff to the hoards of excited teenagers roaming the streets like the already owned the place, but no one was handing flyers to me. I'm old. I can't be a fresher, surely. I wanted to have a name badge on saying "don't ignore me, I'm a fresher too!" but alas I fear I would've looked like even more of a plonker and so carried on my merry way until it happened. Someone stuck their bounty filled hand out in front of me and said... wait for it... "free condom?".


Oh well. I'm never one to turn anything down so I sniggered, took it graciously and then sniggered again at the Durham University sticker on the packet before sealing it away in my handbag.

On my entry into the murky depths of the students union building I was hit by a wall of warm dampness oozing from the hundreds of students trying to cram their way through the various halls and rooms to sign up for everything they could and blag as many freebies as they could. I imagine if you spent enough time wandering round and talking to all of the stalls you could probably blag enough free stuff to keep you going for a while, certainly in pens, notepads and sweets at the very least.

I must admit though, I didn't bother grappling with the kids to get freebies. Despite my usual 'owt for nowt' attitude I didn't fancy my chances so all I bothered with was a Durham University Library pen and a free slice of Dominos pizza (I hadn't had breakfast so it came at just the right time). I did however sign up for a couple of societies and have my eye on a couple of others so I'll see what happens with those and report back with any exciting news.

I suppose I had always thought that the whole freshers experience had passed me by so I'm glad I got to go to the fair, if for no other reason than to see how utterly mental it was! And here's me thinking that Durham Uni students would be all civilised and sensible. How wrong I suspect I am.