5 things to know about university if you’re working class

Posted here for Opinion Panel: http://www.opinionpanel.co.uk/2013/08/19/life-after-alevels/

I’m pretty working class but was never really aware of this until I went to university. I’ve never been skiing and I’ve only been on holiday three times in my life. Apparently I even have a saaaaf-east London accent. Here are some things I wish I knew straight after A-Levels and what you can expect from uni if you’re not particularly middle class:

1. Don’t take a gap year unless you have money.
I thought I’d get a job really easily with my A-Levels, save up then be able to travel a bit. Unfortunately I ended up on Job Seekers for the year, desperately trying to get a job in a working class area where, quelle surprise, there was none. I then had to listen to people talk about their fabulous GAP YAHRS which made me feel a) inadequate and b) very bored. Also, apart from the odd altruistic person who takes their gap year to truly help people through volunteering or for necessary work experience, all people really seem to do is get drunk in different bits of the world and show off about it. Yawn. Actually, do us all a favour and don’t take a gap year at all unless it’s going to be for the first two reasons.

2. Overtly confident people are everywhere.
Everyone seems to be well rounded, smart, have fully formed political views and be able to launch into conversations with strangers without being heavily inebriated. They are often stupidly attractive, too. People like this don’t really exist where I live, and I found it unbelievably intimidating. What has worked for me and may work for you is the commencement of a double life; at university I’m all Mark from Peep Show and at home I turn into Jez. This is fine unless the friendship groups happen to meet and oh jeez DO I TALK ABOUT SOCRATES OR THE SIMPSONS?

3. People talk a lot of bollocks.
This is mostly in regard to people’s political views. It is such a big deal at university I doubt it can be avoided. Although it is quite hypnotising that people know so much about politics, you must remember they are often talking out their arse. I’ve met a socialist democrat who told me he’d be so pissed if he couldn’t actually have his ipod anymore and Tories who have never had money struggles spouting off about the correct usage of benefits. It is good that people are passionate about politics and it is great fun to debate but you are only 18-20, you’re probably wrong about a lot of things and you definitely believe things that are totally hypocritical to your situation and ideal life.

4. Perspective makes everything fine.
Regardless of class, you will meet nice people and you will meet dicks. This is the same everywhere and university is just a more informal version of school (“High School Never Ends” by Bowling for Soup comes to mind). You do have the opportunity to reinvent yourself though – I called myself Keff on Facebook after I didn’t want someone to friend request me but people at University added me after this and now only know me as Keff (people were confused when we got mail for a “Katherine”).

5. Gastritis.
Middle class or not, we’ve all got stomachs (stay with me on this). Drinking too much, as you undoubtedly will in your first year, can lead to gastritis. This is the condition whereby excessive alcohol consumption irritates your stomach lining causing excruciating abdominal pain. This happens to so many students yet NO-ONE mentions it anywhere beforehand, leaving you to freak out when it does happen and convince yourself your liver has packed up. Therefore invest in some antacids like Gaviscon that will help prevent this painful and annoying affliction.

As a wise philosopher once said, “Don’t be fooled by the rocks that I got, I’m still I’m still Jenny from da block” which roughly translates to class is a social construct that doesn’t really affect whether you’re a good person or not, nor your overall uni experience (I said rough translation).

Still, it must be said that the more working class you are the more polarised you feel the higher up the educational ladder you get, and this probably isn’t going to improve with the higher fees in place.