So You Want to Leave the Bubble?
JOE WHITWELL broke out, made it back alive, and wants you to do the same.
God it was so good to be back. You remember it well, don’t you? Catching up after the holidays. Gosh they were long, weren’t they? And then, then those golden few days before the work started arriving. Those days were truly bliss. Just thinking about those precious few moments makes me smile.
That was long time ago now. That was four weeks, a lifetime-ago. Now the winter, or spring, or summer of discontent has set in. The work is without end. The sound of your inbox ping provokes an involuntary shudder. That time-table you drew up doesn’t make you feel productive, it makes you feel guilty. That reading ahead or revising over Easter was neutralised by an essay or a problem sheet on a topic that wasn’t in the library, never mind on the reading list. The downward spiral won’t give up, the emails won’t end, the tasks won’t stop. Why do all these streets look the same? Why do all these faces look familiar? Why have I internalised the staff rotations of the hall to my subconscious? Where am I? Who am I?
But then somebody suggests that you take a weekend away. ‘What?’ You think. ‘Away? What is this away? And why has nobody told me about it before?’
Well, gather round dear reader, fellow procrastinator, partner in Tabloid crime, because actually there is such a place. Don’t let anybody know about this but the train station, yes, the one with the trains, genuinely does have trains running throughout term time. Mental, I know, but true.
Do you know what else is true? You can totally leave whenever you want. Nobody can stop you. You are a free agent, my friend. I know your inbox doesn’t concur, but that doesn’t make it not so. You could elope right now for the weekend, or for life…
The hard part’s the decision. What now? Oh yes! Where to go? Well, you could go anywhere really. You are a train away from Stansted and the low-budgetery brilliance that is Cryin’air. You are even two trains away from Paris. Yes I know! Paris! Go international. Go Eurostar. Go beserk. It’s possible. I know it. I’ve seen it.
What about domestic? You could go home, or if you’re an overseas student, convince that British friend that they’ve got to go to their home. Then, at the last possible moment, feign a breakdown and declare that you simply must go with them. Once there, simply soak up the atmosphere. Experience food being cooked for you by somebody else, daytime TV, clean clothing. You can experience arguing with parents again IT’S BEEN SO LONG.
But wait. What if you hate your home town? What if you’re not from somewhere edgy like Manchester but from some grim ex industrial town rife and crime and misery? Worse, what if you’re from Hull? My suggestion? If you happen to know anyone at uni in Newcastle or Northumbria, that would be my top tip. Yes, from here, it is four trains (which by network rail standards is about 19 hours), but it is THE student experience. I promise you. And if you’re from the south you can finally sample Greggs.
Just imagine it. Skip your Friday lectures and, if you’re that way inclined (NatSci), your Saturday lectures too, and for a long weekend have the “real” university experience. You could go clubbing in an actual club. You could walk down a street and not recognise every third person. You could go for literally hours without the mention of rowing.
In Michaelmas I left uni so frequently that if I had actually informed the relevant authorities I probably wouldn’t have even kept term. It was great, the work on my return wasn’t.
In Lent I knew how to rectify this; I didn’t travel at all. Week 6 and I hit the wall. I’ve never hit a wall before. You know what? I don’t recommend it.
This term I vow to leave the bubble once. Just once.
‘What?’ I hear you gasp. ‘But it’s exam term! What are you doing you fool? You must revise. You must wallow here and hate everything about this uni, this degree, this goddam institution.’ Well no, if two days work mean I miss out on a first (ok yes a 2.i), but that I finish my first year with some sense of perspective and vague concept of sanity, then I reckon I’ll take the hit. See you on the other side.