Tuesday, August 02, 2011

University life

You know the feeling? Leaving the family home, off you go, world in your suitcase, to a new set of friends and a completely different environment. Everything is strange and new, there’s so much to learn.

Of course, that’s just starting a new job, it must be tough for the students too. After all, I was only moving to Essex for a few months, not three years. And though I’d be working hard, no one was going to be examining me. Mind you, I wouldn’t leave with a degree either.

Taking a maternity cover post at the University of Essex turned out to be one of the best moves I’d made in a long time. Though leaving my family during the week was hard, I was given the chance to strengthen other friendships and explore new opportunities.

I’ve worked in higher education before – but the University of Essex and the University of Cambridge are two very different beasts. As different as the lion rampant and the wyvern.

When I first got the job in Colchester I had a problem; where to live? I was very lucky to be offered a place to stay with friends - people I knew through music. Though we'd known each other a good few years, the friendship was based around music and, to be honest, we didn't really know each other. This six month sojourn turned out to be a great chance to learn just how much we did have in common. And let's face it, if you can have someone live with your family for six months, it certainly helps if you can get on. Which we did, and had some fun times including living through the fun dramas (noise, dust, hunky workmen everywhere) created by building work.

Whilst in Colchester, and living in Ipswich, I made other friends too. Friends of my hosts, plus people I met through music. There is a great open mic in Wivenhoe, and a nice folk venue in Ipswich, plus the folk club in Colchester itself. I got to see and know a few faces regularly and enjoyed playing in a 'new territory'.

I met other people too and had some completely new experiences, including singing 'ohm' in a circle of very interesting and lovely people. It wasn't as mad as it sounds - in fact it was very calming. I also met quite a few interesting people at a moot in Ipswich and, to my delight, won a set of tarot cards in the raffle!

That was the social life around 'home', then there was the work environment too - the wonderful setting of Wivenhoe Park. The University may be a huge 60's concrete world, but it certainly has its good points. Though not a fan of that period of architecture, the idea of the squares (almost plaza like) is good, and there are great resources on site. From laundry to post office, hair dresser to co-op. And, of course, the SU bar and other eateries. The landscape is wonderful - with lakes and the most amazing old oak trees. You may be in an office in a concrete building, but it was but a step to a completely different environment which was full of wildlife and the delightful atmosphere of youth and adventure. I like that environment.

The people I worked with were really nice - so nice that I had tears in my eyes when I said goodbye. Just six months, but long enough to get to know some great people and know that I've made some good friends. Just take a look through my previous posts and you'll find me singing in the pub with one colleague, taking another bunch round the campus to look at birds and visiting Athens with my boss (OK, that was work, but it still counts).

For my leaving do I was given a dinner party - how cool is that?! Not only did we have great food and champagne, but when the 'lightweights' had gone home, Vicki and I went to the pub. I met a very nice young man called Daniel who I chatted away too assuming he was someone Vicki knew. Nope! Was a good laugh - but that whiskey chaser was just one drink too many. I still rolled into work bright and breezy though, it wasn't that much, just too much.

To top it all, my leaving gift was two tickets to the Royal Opera House to see La Traviata - how cool is that!?

I made many friends in the University in different departments as well as my own. I shall miss them and the challenge they face as higher education enters a new funding structure and interesting future.

So now I've left University, but once again with a strong desire to return to education in the future and get some edufication myself one of these there days.

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