Doing the 50: One man's attempt to do 50 things we said all students should do

Sheffield third-year James Ashford is bored of the student existence. His Philosophy degree unfulfilling, he was tired of doing nothing. Then, he discovered The Independent's ultimate list of 50 things to do before leaving uni. Now he's a man with purpose. This is the first of his attempts to do all 50 and maybe, just maybe, become a man.

Having repeatedly been told that university years are the best of your life, I found myself entering my third and final year feeling pretty underwhelmed.

It was long before university that I peaked academically, largely thanks to Horrible Histories books and my mother’s enthusiasm for imposing economic and military sanctions when my grades dropped below an acceptable standard.

Thanks to oversharing on the Internet and undertaking the least vocational degree imaginable, I’m essentially unemployable and beginning to wonder what the point of it all was.

Luckily, depending on how you look at it, I stumbled across the Independent's 'definitive' list of 50 things you have to to do before you leave university. The list was pretty bland and vaguely patronising, but it gave me some direction at last. I decided to complete all 50 things, write about them, and in the process have some life-changing experiences: e.g. Number 7 on the list: Read a book that isn't study-related.

It's a dizzying list of wild ideas, but I wanted to start slow.

15 Join a society for something you've always wanted to do

30 Write in to the uni radio station or newspaper

"I'm sitting in the empty studio waiting for Joe. Have just discovered everything is linked up. We COULD go live."

This announcement, made in my first term at uni, was the beginning of the end for my career in student radio. A couple of days later I would be called into a meeting with the head of Forge Radio and told plainly that I was not welcome back.

A few hiccups, including facetiously calling Prince Phillip a ‘b******’ for not giving me my Duke of Edinburgh award, had put the show in a volatile position. So this impromptu show, broadcast when the station was off air for the Christmas break, proved to be the final straw.

Change in all things is sweet. I decided that with a year and a half having gone by, I would apologise once more and reapply to broadcast a show. I wrote to the station manager telling him I was a reformed character and that I would love to get back into student radio. He replied inviting me to discuss the matter with him and the assistant station manager.

A short meeting and an agreement was reached. I was given a second chance on the condition that any excessive horseplay would be in breach of my parole. I had written to the student radio, and joined the radio society. Two down. The list didn't seem as hard as I thought it was.

8 Hire a bike for a week and see how it works out for you

To my bemusement there is actually nowhere in Sheffield to hire a bike from. Unable to formally rent a bicycle out, I aggressively commandeered one from my housemate to see how it worked out for me.

As Sheffield is regarded by professional mountaineers as ‘slightly hillier’ than the Tharsis region of Mars, it wasn’t long before I was having serious doubts about my cycling ability. Despite being dubbed ‘quad monster’ at GymSoc, I was regularly capitulating halfway up Conduit Road. Friends would stand at checkpoints with water, sponges and carbohydrate-rich nutrition gels, but the expense and effort required to make a trip to and from university was getting too great, and when the week was up, it was not with a heavy heart that I said goodbye to the bicycle.

1 Feed the campus wildlife

35 Have a sleepover

I decided London was as good a place as any for a sleepover. On the way to the station, I chucked some bread into the pond next to uni, avoided doing any About a Boy-style duck murdering, and carried on my merry way.

On arriving in London, I met my friend Josh and travelled to our hostel. We had a few hours to kill before we went to Marshall Amps’ 50th birthday gig, so we went to check out our fourteen-bed dormitory. To get us in the mood for a rock concert, Josh started playing Iron Maiden on his phone. He turned it off quickly when a man in a neighbouring bunk started shouting at us in an angry, terrifying language.

The gig itself was essentially four hours of old men playing guitars at each other. It was like watching Spinal Tap in a room of people who didn’t get the joke. To further demonstrate the heavy rock community’s lack of a sense of humour, someone thought it would be a really good idea to have Al Murray compering. It wasn’t.

On the way to the afterparty, we got chatting to a couple of guys who had managed to smuggle a plastic cup half full of lager on to the bus. I said I was going to tell the driver and get them thrown off, but it turned out that the cooler of the pair’s girlfriend was organising the event.

When we arrived at the party, I knew we’d been out-cooled. There were loads of people with little moustaches smoking hand-rolled cigarettes and rhapsodising about drugs. I talked to one of them and it turned out that he sang in a band called ‘Eagles of Death Metal’. Terrified, we went inside to the relative safety of the bar.

As is tradition on nights out in a foreign environment, we decided to assume alternative personas. Our ‘French rock band’ disguise fell through spectacularly when we got into conversation with real French people. Despite my remarkable fluency, their suspicions were aroused by Josh’s Gallic shrugging. Whilst I had been distracted, his imitation had turned from convincing to borderline racist.

Eventually Kate Moss turned up and started trying to DJ, so we went home to order a kebab. I managed to tick off ‘sleepover’ whilst contorted horribly in a bunk bed that was approximately two-and-a-half feet shorter than my body.

With the fifth of my first five things completed, I headed home. It can only get more thrilling.

James Ashford is a useful idiot. Follow him on Twitter: @iamjamesashford

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