This Student Life: Dance away the heartache (dance away the arrears)

Spring term, week 4 at the Manchester Student House; Exams are over, and the students' attention is turning to other topics. In Dave and Alistair's case, this means money.

EXAMS ARE finally over and the pressure's off. Most of the students have had exams this January. The first term of their second years was a gentle lead-in to the important stuff. Any exams they take from now on will count towards their final degree.

That's why last term was decision time for Leona at UMIST (University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology). She just hadn't done the work to show she could hack the rest of the second year. If these Manchester students are anything to go by, to be a student now means you actually have to do some work.

And most of it isn't spoon-fed. Ian, for example, only has four hours a week lecture time, the rest is taken up with reading endless books, studying and writing essays.

Now that the jangle of nerves are no longer disturbing the house, the corridors are crowded with sounds from The Beatles (Alistair) to drum 'n' bass (Leona). Ian and Tasha finished their swot-athon last Friday and spent Saturday night going wild at Fluid, one of the better Manchester clubs. You might find it hard to fathom why Tasha goes to clubs at all. She doesn't drink and can't differentiate one type of club music from another. "I dunno what music it was," she says. "House music maybe?"

She's looking forward to going home. "I really miss my family and I haven't seen them since Christmas," she says.

Alistair the moneymaker decided on a post-modernist night out to celebrate the end of his exams. He headed for Club Trop, named after the Wham! hit "Club Tropicana" ("where membership's a smiling face," sings Tasha. Yes, she knows all the words). "I got hammered," says a disconcertingly jolly- sounding Alistair, "and then I passed out."

Now he's sober, he's waxing lyrical about President Clinton. "When I was in America over Christmas, Clinton was on the air all the time. It was like, `Here is the news from Clinton's toilet! Moment by moment action! Watch as he squeezes the last drop!' It was completely ridiculous, utterly boring."

He has an interesting insight on the rights and wrongs of the saga. "I thought the whole point of being a powerful president is that you got to have whoever you wanted. And I tell you what: out of all the girls I could have had I wouldn't have chosen Monica Lewinsky."

Alistair is going through his own love pain. He's missing Tori, his girlfriend in America. "We've spoken on the phone a few times and I've sent her a few tapes," he says, "and I'm throwing myself into so much activity that I won't have time to miss her." His bedroom has its own testament to mushiness, with a poster of a couple watching the sunset. He isn't allowing himself much time to pine. Alistair is in an entrepreneurial frenzy. Not only is he organising his 21st birthday party, he's hiring DJs and organising tickets for club nights.

Meanwhile, Dave's one-off night he promoted in a local club before Christmas was a roaring success, and the owners have offered him a weekly slot. He is considering going into business with Alistair.

Dave has a big advantage. For health reasons (unspecified) his doctor has told him he can't drink any alcohol. So while everyone else is getting pissed at his club nights, he'll be going around stone-cold sober.

"I'm all right," he says. He's just getting over the shock. "It'll save me a lot of money, and I will have to keep focused on my work. I won't be getting up at two in the afternoon any more. It'll make me fitter!" he declares, warming to the theme. "I'll go to the gym rather than the pub and if I want a drink, I'll get a Coke!" We'll see if his enthusiasm lasts the week.

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