This last week has been a busy one for lots of parents as they packed up their teenage children and a car full of belongings to drop them off and set them up for their first year, or another year, of life at university. As hard and heartbreaking as that must be normally, I can only imagine it to be doubly so given the strange and worrying circumstances we’re currently living under.
hile I may not be moving anywhere, I was also in organisation mode for university this week, scooting about, buying folders and paper, multicoloured highlighters, biros and fluorescent file dividers, all in preparation for the start of my second year back as a (supposedly) mature, part-time psychology student. I even bought myself some lovely sturdy shelves to take the weight of the amount of books I have for my course.
And given the eye watering price of my textbooks, I wanted to make sure I can keep them safely out of the reach of my four-year-old and her habit of drawing stick figures on the pages. The first time I uncovered some of her doodles, I asked her why she had drawn in my books when she knew that was a naughty thing to do. She answered me by saying: “You were looked sad when you were studying for your exams mummy, so I thought I’d draw a picture of me on the pages to make you smile.” How can you stay cross after that answer?
I have to confess, I was a little less excited at the thought of returning to studying this year than I was this time last September. It’s not that my enthusiasm for learning, or for the subject matter has decreased – if anything, having a year’s worth of knowledge under my belt has only increased my desire to find out more. The reason my enthusiasm has been dampened, more than a little, is that all my lessons are going to be delivered online, at least until Christmas. So, instead of being able to enter the university buildings, I’ll be staying at home, taking up residence for hours on end at my kitchen table, and while the thought of being able to stay make-up free and in my jammies has a certain appeal, there are definitely more minus than plus points to this new way of learning.
There was something about being able to step outside of my normal busy week and leave my work and family commitments behind for one solid day every week that I adored last year. Losing myself in the lectures and spending hours buried in books in the library was such a treat. The chance to have time focused on something that’s purely for me, without having to think about anyone or anything else was amazing. I know it may sound really selfish, but to be away from home and be able to study, uninterrupted by work calls, or my children wanting to know why the sky is blue, where their jeans are (why do they never think to check the cupboard in their room?), or if they can plunder my purse for a fiver, is a luxury that’s very much missed.
It’s so different to my first experience of being a teenage student and I really wish I’d had the wisdom to appreciate the freedom from responsibility I had back then. I studied hard but I also loved lazing about with my housemates, watching TV and nattering in the students’ union. We did, of course, have lots of nights out and even the odd party in our house but, I have to say, we did all of that without falling out with our neighbours. We were mindful that we lived in a residential area, we came home as quietly as we could, we informed those we shared a party wall with of any get-togethers we were having and came to an agreement about a time when our music would be turned off.
I’ve spent the last year with students and can wholeheartedly say that the majority around today would act in a similar, thoughtful manner. It’s such a shame to see the very few, highlighted in the news in the last week or so, give the rest a bad name because of their actions.