What is there to do when your university is in a boring place?
Not everyone gets to go to university in London and Manchester. In fact, some people can end up studying in pretty far-flung places. Katherine Burch shows you how to make your own fun
Tuesday 21 August 2012
It's finally here! You're at university, and life's going to be one big action packed party!
So what do you do when three days in, you realise you are living in a deserted wilderness, with no people for miles around and where the only entertainment is cloud watching. Well, more likely a small town with only a club or two, no 24-hour McDonalds and no Topshop.
Don’t panic! The End is not nigh. There is still plenty to do, it just requires a slight reorganisation of your ideas.
In the club
The first big problem you may encounter at a remote university is nightclubs, or rather the lack thereof. Your usual large university town or city will be overrun with clubs. Rachael Correya, a theatre design undergraduate, enjoys Nottingham’s wealth of nightlife, for instance: "There're so many different places for everyone; random old school clubs, massive venues and really tiny out of the way clubs". Lucky her...
Small towns may not have as many clubs as in Nottingham, but this is not the end of the world. One benefit of only having a few clubs is the social aspect. Cheesy though it may sound, a certain community feel is formed when the whole university socialises in one place.
A good way to get to know people from your university is by bonding over that terrible playlist the DJ used last week. Another positive is on the safety front because you will always be able to find your friends at the end of the night, even if you lose the group that you came out with. However, be warned that being out with everyone you know means they will be watching you, ready to continually remind you of those nights you thought you could do the moon walk as well as Michael Jackson.
Even if you don't remember something, everyone else will. Another source of amusement when lacking clubs is the simple field rave; never underestimate a party in the great outdoors.
A sporting chance
Living in a remote university can be particularly valuable for sporty types. Whilst your university may not have an award-winning football team, it doesn't matter you can set one up yourself, this will look great on your CV too.
The countryside provides a whole new range of sports clubs many students would not usually have access to. These can be as varied as horse riding, caving, orienteering, surfing and climbing. Joseph Marchbank, an undergraduate at St Andrews in Scotland, takes advantage of these sporting opportunities.
"I play a lot of golf up here," he says. "There are seven courses, I pay 180 quid at the start of the year which gives you unlimited access to all seven, it’s silly value."
Lots of sports groups give discounts to students to encourage them to play, it seems only sensible to take them up, particularly for those who exist on the stereotypical student diet of junk food and need to burn some of it off.
Strange ways here we come
The weird and wacky can also be available at universities in smaller areas with students having to take action and create their own entertainment. In Cornwall these range from attending the Bee Society (where you learn how to keep bees), to going cliff jumping (less morbid than it sounds) which are popular activities for students.
Meera Rajasooriar, who studies in Cornwall, does this. "We go cliff jumping, for recreational purposes of course. It gives us a different buzz".
Nevertheless, the lack of amenities in an area can seem strange to city dwellers. "The biggest shock was the lack of shops," Meera adds. "I didn't realise mainstream things like Greggs and Nandos wouldn't be there. I just assumed everywhere would have them."
The problem in big cities can often be too many amenities. Eleanor Mellor, a student living in Sheffield, finds that "me and my friends tend to sit around in cafes a lot, which is a big waste of money." So at least your bank account won’t be too downhearted that you don't have a Nandos!
Of course a lot of small towns have more individual places to eat and no-one's yet met a student without a Domino’s Pizza nearby. Failing that, trips to the supermarket at 3am are surprisingly entertaining.
Off the beaten track
Being in the middle of nowhere, another that problem students often face is travel. Anybody who has experienced waiting an hour for a country bus in a rainy field can sympathise with this. Nonetheless, more often than not, because more remote universities are situated in small towns you don't need to use public transport, as everything is easy to walk to.
"There’s not as many ways to get around but you don't need to because it’s smaller, everything is within walking distance," finds Chichester student Jake Devine.
Walking is friendlier to your wallet, saving on bus fares. Often, universities in small towns can afford to subsidise travel for students, like in Falmouth, where some bus fares go as low as 60p for a single journey. Many students find that university is such a centralised world focused around studying, friendships and partying, that it doesn't always matter that you cannot leave the town easily. Of course this is until cabin fever sets in...
So next time you despair that you seem to be surrounded by only fields and cows, remember that while living at a remote university may seem tough at first, a different perspective and attitude can alter it completely. After all wherever students are, with the energy, excitement and creativity they possess, they will find something to do.
Katherine Burch is a second year student at the University of Exeter, studying at their Cornwall campus in Penryn. She now has plenty of experience at making her own entertainment.
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