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Hours of graft, moments of truth

This Student Life: Summer Term, week 3 at the Manchester Student House; Harmony rules as everyone - well, almost everyone - just gets on with it.
DESPITE THE looming prospect of endless revision and exams, relations in the student house are cordial. The occupants are too busy planning their year out, their third year in Manchester or working out revision timetables to argue over phone bills or fan the flames of personal enmity.

"Nobody's rowing," says Leona, "because everyone's happily getting on with their work. Last week was brilliant, with Ian and David's great birthday party and then there was all that the sunshine so we all went to the park together. Now everyone's settling down and getting on with it."

But Leona's finding the harmony a little trying. She dropped out of college just before Christmas, and now she's at a loose end deciding what to do next while all her friends have their goals in sight.

"They're all working really hard," she says. "Even Tasha and Robbie have completely calmed down. Until last week they were drinking nearly every afternoon but they've completely pulled themselves together. I spend the whole time going into people's rooms and disturbing them while they're studying. I don't have much of a purpose anymore, other than to irritate. I didn't realise, when it came to exam time, I would feel so left out." She secretly hoped that at least one of her friends would bottle out of revision. "Tasha was the one who would always come out with me but now she's probably the one that I irritate the most."

If truth were told, Leona's pretty miserable. She loves the student life but she never took to studying. "Once you start working you can't have all these weeks off over the summer," she says, "but at the moment I'm not making enough money to make either of my jobs worthwhile." Since leaving college, Leona has been working in two local bars while she decides what she wants to do next. "I'm not progressing. Everyone else knows exactly what they're doing next year except me. Robbie's found this house to live in next year and he asked me if I want to move in with him. I need to let him know as soon as possible but I honestly can't make up my mind. I don't know what I really want to do, but I know I need a plan."

One option for her is to stay in Manchester and start a new course, another is to move to London and get a "proper" job, while there's always the lure of working abroad. But decision-making is not Leona's strong point. "I need someone to tell me what to do every step of the way," she says. "My ex-boyfriend used to hate me for not being able to make up my mind."

Apart from deciding where she wants to live, Leona has some reservations about moving into Robbie's new place. "It would be just me and five boys," she explains. "It's either going to be dreadful or I'll be Queen of the Castle."

"I would hate her to go back to college and mess it up," says Robbie. "She should try and get started on a career path next and if she wants to, she can do a degree later. She should really get out of the situation she's in at the moment because she's going nowhere."

David's not too depressed about having to come back from his Far Eastern holiday. "Last week I wished I was still away, but there's no point stressing out about exams," he says. "I must just do my best to get on with it." He's not impressed with his lecturers. "There's a lot of emphasis in my course on self-learning which is just as well, because a lot of our lecturers are so busy with their own work that they can't be bothered with the students. They're more interested in the prestige of new research.

"If you really need help with something, some of them couldn't care less how you do," he continues. "I didn't take any maths modules this year, even though I'm quite good at it, because the maths lecturers last year were disgraceful. And one module, financial markets, is so boring I'm learning the subject by text book." He remains philosophical. "At university, it's the experience that's important, not the degree."