Becoming a student again
The first day of term and Keele is gearing up for the arrival of around 2500 ‘freshers’
Sweaty palms, anxious faces, nervous smiles, uncertain glances, tears, more tears…and that’s just the parents!
The new young adults all seem super cool (at least on the outside) and virtually all display a kind of
weary tolerance (‘yeah, whatever, Mum) of the fussy ministrations of of their parents and wait with barely contained impatience for them to leave – but not before letting them buy them a meal and leave a last tenner, twenty or perhaps even more ‘for spending money’. I know, I’ve been there – as a parent that is!
It was very different as a student getting to Keele in 1971. Like around 90% of my matriculating class (I’ve done an informal survey), I’d never been there before, barely know where it was, and had no idea what to expect. My Mum, bless her, accompanied me, and my solitary (small) suitcase, as far as Euston, saw me onto the train, thrust a fiver into my hand and said “see you at Christmas”. So much for the despair and wringing of hands at the departure of her only son and eldest child!
But back to today. the campus is jam packed, because not only are there around 2500 students arriving, most of them are accompanied by one or both parents and have driven up in cars packed to the gunwales with essential ‘stuff’. Registration is run like a military operation. As I approach the Chancellor’s Building a student volunteer asks me “parent or student?” and is suitably astonished when I cheerily reply “student”. Another then thrusts the ‘order of service’ into my hands. It is also at this point that students are separated from their anguished parents, who are gently directed to another part of the building ‘for a cup of tea’
I navigate all 4 steps, collecting both a startling number of help guides (how much has all this cost, thinks the businessman in me?) and an equal number of startled looks. Having run the registration gauntlet, I
stride through the area where parents are being reunited with their soon-to-be-free charges
I am now officially a student again!