Preparing for (and enjoying!) University life – a mini series….Part 1

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The build up…

It seems like only yesterday that I was preparing to go to University (something I never, ever, ever thought I would do). The truth is, it was, errr, 17 years ago. SEVENTEEN YEARS AGO!

I applied for 3 Universities whilst at College. All of them to do the same Computer Science based course. I only actually remember two of my choices, Derby, and Aberystwyth. My only real prerequisite was to ensure I moved out of home, I didn’t want to go to Uni and stay living with the parents – nothing personal, but I wanted to get the full experience, and that meant digs.

For some reason, I only ended up going to the open day in Aberystwyth. Part of me thinks it was the distance from home (Norwich) that appealed. The other part thinks there was a nostalgic reason behind my choice. As a child, we would always go on family holidays to Wales, and with such fond memories, I guess the pull was always there. This would be evident a few years after I graduated, when I went on to live and work in Cardiff.


The open day was amazing – Aberystwyth is such a unique place, and the appeal was there from the moment I arrived. I had an interview with the department, and was offered a unconditional place. This took the pressure off me during the final phases of college, thankfully. I’ve always struggled with exams, but with that stress removed, I did just fine. I’d made my mind up by the time we’d driven home, and I didn’t waste any more time looking around – come September (2002!) I was going to be a Aberystwythian.

September came around very quickly! I’d spent a few weeks packing things, preparing what I thought I might need. I had plates, a toaster, a kettle, and a box full of dried foods (that, evidently, I never did eat).

My gran, who is sadly no longer with us, bought me my first new Laptop. She wanted to help, and wanted to make sure I had what I needed for Uni life. It would also turn out, that every week, my gran would also send me the “Pinkun” (Norwich City Football newspaper) which formed my nickname for the years I was at Uni (more on this later!)

Soon the time came for me, Mum and Dad to make the long drive from Norwich to Aberystwyth, to get my accommodation keys, and settle in to my new room. I was in a block of student accommodation called “Penbryn”. Of course, I’d read all about it, I’d seen pictures, I knew what to expect!

Penbryn Poster
It’s a classic – on the walls when we moved in to Penbryn

My room was small, but not as small as some. I had a sink, wardrobe, desk, and a single bed. The golden nugget, for me, was the network connection! This was 2002, I’d never witnessed internet speeds like it! Our rooms were on the ground floor, and as a safety reason, the ground floor was all male. 19 lads on a corridor. What could possibly go wrong….!

We unpacked the car, Mum and Dad helped me unpack a few boxes in the room, then it was time for them to get going and head back. One thing I’ll never forget is the overwhelming feeling of not being good enough to be at University. I remember saying to my parents as they left;

“I don’t deserve to be here”

This was probably the guilt from months of going bowling and drinking beer at College (instead of doing College) talking, but it made both parents quite emotional, so I ushered them out, and was then plunged in to the student life.

My mums friend, Sue, had given me a box of chocolates before I left, with a note saying “Leave these on your desk, with your door open, when you arrive”. I did just that – it’s amazing how many people will say hello when they see an open door and free chocolate. Top tip right there – chocolate (or beer) is always welcomed.

I’ll be honest, I don’t remember much more from day one – not because it was a mad blur of loneliness and panic about being 300 miles away from home – but because, during the evening meal and induction meeting, I parked my butt next to a chap called Alistair – we both sat there on our old Nokia phones, messaging, well, no one really, but we spoke and agreed we should visit the union after tea. Again, my only memory of that night is him walking towards me, from the bar, with a bottle of beer wedged between each of his fingers. Needless to say, we had a good night, and the ice was certainly broken between, not only me and Al, but the majority of the guys on that floor. The first night at Uni is one I will never let slip – hundreds of people all in the same boat, all wanting to have a good time. Unbeatable,

And that was that – day one of University life was over. I was drunk, 300 miles from home, and had made friends (who, it would turn out, would still be my best friends to this very day).

I think there’s so much more to share about this, I’m going to break it down in to smaller chunks, so even if you don’t read it, I’ll enjoy reading it back when I’m old(er) and (more) forgetful than I already am.

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