I think the most interesting part of an academic year is the first couple of weeks. I love the buzz it brings.
Suddenly the corridors are not empty, the forecourt is not deserted, the library is populated, the cafeterias are open, and my colleagues are back from Spain (and China). There’s talk, activity, excitement. Everywhere.
The main reason for my partiality, though, is the freshers. They simply wash across the campus, their faces open and eager (alas, it’s only a matter of weeks before that innocence sets into the grim expression of the hardened student). I love watching them, in a rather nostalgic way.
The period allows me to mingle with students incognito — a task made easy by my youthful looks and innocent face, I would like to believe — with the explicit purpose of eavesdropping. On one occasion I sat down with them and waited for the lecturer — myself. It was great fun, quite insightful. I strongly recommend it to all staff.
Outside a lecture hall.
1st girl: “…and I really don’t know why they said that.”
2nd girl: “They want to keep you quiet, that’s why.”
3rd girl: “But you haven’t even gone to a lecture!”
2nd girl: “I tell you, they want to keep her quiet.”
1st girl: “But — ”
2nd girl: “Honey, this is university!”
Much intrigued. Anyone know what that was all about?
In Waterstone’s, on campus.
Girl waving copy of Public Relations Theory: “This one, y’think? She said this one’s good!”
2nd girl: “So take it.”
3rd girl: “They can say what they like, but they ain’t getting me to buy books.”
2nd girl: “Me neither.”
Girl 1: “…and the first thing I will do after I clear my overdraft is get myself a jumper. Not books. A jumper.”
Baggy-Trousered, Tousle-Haired Fresher 1, heading straight for the chest-press machine: “This is the best one. I luvv it!”
B-T T-H F 2: “Yeah?”
B-T T-H F 1: “Yeah! This works your chest. You gotta get some chest, mate — chicks go for chest.”
Seminar room. Break-time.
Girl: “…like, one of the guys can’t cook? At all? And he actually came to ask me how to boil an egg? All he can do is pasta and ketchup and he has had it every single day!?”
Outside a lecture theatre.
Girl 1: “I love my housemates! They are so lovely, we get along so well!”
Girl 2: “One of my housemates is quitting because she says our place isn’t clean.”
Girl 1: “Then she should come to our place. It is a mess! And my housemates are lovely. The guys do the washing up! One day we sat around talking till 7 am and the guys did the washing up!”
At the gym.
Big guy to small guy, peering in at open door: “Let’s see what they’ve got here… Uh-huh, it is the aerobics room!”
Small guy: “Uh, the girlie room. Naff.”
This post was first published on October 11, 2006 on the blog titled The Accidental Academic.