THE FINAL exams of the second year are looming, and everyone's feeling tense. Robbie has recently returned from the Easter break at his parents' house in Leeds. He's feeling parental pressure to do well, but he reckons that's a good thing.
"My mum and dad brought us up to be ambitious; they wouldn't have anything else," he explains. "They are a little bit pushy but I feel quite lucky to have parents like that. I'm not sure how they feel about my work at the moment. I know that they think I drink and go out too much... and since I got back to Manchester I've been going out every night. Now I need to stop and settle down."
But Robbie has a tough act to follow. Both his sisters were model students. "My elder sister, Rupa, went to Bristol and she's just perfect and really intelligent. She got three distinctions out of four exams in her psychology MA, which was the highest result out of the whole of the university. My other sister, Rita, was an energy broker, but now she wants to do more environmental work. She did really well at college, too."
Moreover while Robbie's academic record is up to scratch, his parents are not impressed with his choice of accommodation. "They've been here," he explains of the run-down house where all the students live, "and they think it's very grotty - they reckon I should be tidier. My mum thought the bathroom and kitchen were absolutely disgusting. I tell them both that we're students and we don't care."
Robbie reckons his mum and dad don't understand what it's like for students in Manchester. "My mum went to college in India and lived at home," he continues, "and my sisters lived in really nice accommodation. Rupa did her degree at York and lived in a great Victorian house, while Rita lived in decent halls in Luton. Manchester hasn't really got nice houses for students, unless you pay loads of money. This estate agent told me there are so many students here that there aren't enough houses for them, so owners can charge a lot for rubbish."
Meanwhile, the students are being hassled by their landlord again. "We've had a letter from him saying he's going to come around and inspect the house, and if it isn't clean he's going to send some people in and charge us pounds 100," explains Robbie. "He's basically being arsey about everything." Robbie's also worried about getting his deposit back when he moves out in the summer. "We all put down pounds 220 each, but I don't know whether we'll ever get that back." Robbie's hoping for better luck for next year. He's already looking for a house to share with five different friends. He's not going to share with any of his current housemates. Why not?
"Everyone here is leaving Manchester for a year out, apart from Dave, and he wants to go back into halls," he says. "He thinks he can make more of university and have a really hectic year before he leaves. I want to live in a house, because it will be quieter, but I would have liked to have lived with Dave."
Rosie has just come back from Catford, south London, where she's been staying with her parents. "I'm glad to be back in Manchester again," she explains, "because it's a smaller city than London and everything's easy to get to. You can pop down to Sainsbury's and go to nice bars and stuff. It's more of a big deal to go out in London."
Not that she's got the time to go out anywhere at present. "I've got eight exams coming up, so I'm revising a bit of everything. I haven't got a revision plan or anything like that. I'm not a born organiser."
When her nose isn't in a text book, Rosie's coping with revision pressure by planning her summer holidays. "I want to go to Switzerland to visit a friend there," she says, "but I also want to visit my family in Italy. My dad's side come from a little village near Naples, and I saw my granddad, aunt and cousins when I went back last year. Also, I really want to go to Mexico at the end of July with five friends. Oh, and then I'm going to France with my boyfriend afterwards."
So how is she going to pay for all this travelling?
"I won't be able to do everything, because I can't afford it," says Rosie. "I might be able to afford Mexico with my loan, but I'm just going to try and get a job here.
"Mind you, I could always go back home and work in the Harrods sale again."
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