The main crew, 2002

It IS a shock to the system

As much as I enjoyed being away from home, University life is a real shock to the system. I soon realised that the people who were my “life long” friends from back home, were no longer part of my life. I tried to keep in touch (MSN, Skype etc), but over the course of the first few weeks, they just seemed to vanish. A couple of them commented with things like “Oh you have your own life now” and “you’ve changed” – things that kind of hit you to begin with – but you soon realise that, really, those people were friend by proxy – if you didn’t spend your school years with them, would you be friends with them now?

With the exception of maybe 2 or 3 people, I’m not friends with anyone I went to school with now. If I’m honest, I’m fine with this. Life changes, people move on. Or, in most of my old school friends, people don’t move on, and life doesn’t change. Being at school together wasn’t a strong enough bond for me to maintain those relationships.

You see, it’s a sad but true fact that, Norfolk / Norwich is notoriously bad at “trapping” people – people won’t venture outside of the county, they’ll sit in their bubble and stay in the same job for 40 years. That’s fine, if that’s what you want to do, but I have always been quite transient – and it’s only now, at the ripe old age of, errr, 35, that I’ve decided it’s time to settle, after living in a few different places.

Side note: I still don’t like Norwich, that’s just my opinion – I’ve warmed to it more recently, and because it *is* a good place to bring up a child – but I want to ensure that Grayson knows there is a whole world out there, and that you are allowed to venture past Thetford or Colchester, and that London isn’t the best place you’ll ever visit!

Facebook wasn’t really a thing back when I was at uni – we had “xuqa” – yeah, never heard of it right? Well it was big back then (2003 / 2004) – but was really geared towards institutions like a University – so really only used to meet new people in the same area. Twitter wasn’t a thing. iPhones weren’t a thing. God I feel old.
What I’m getting at, though, is now there are so many more ways to keep in touch with people, it might not be the same outcome (although, I’ll be honest, it probably will be. Sometimes people resent those who move away and go to Uni – you can make your own conclusions as to why)

I guess the main things to remember in those first few weeks / months are:

  • Relax and enjoy meeting new people. Yes, you will meet some utter idiots – but they won’t stick around for long. Uni has a great method of clearing the shit out (it’s called “Exams”, and “attendance”, and if you fail both of them, you’re just wasting everyones time!”)
  • Enjoy the events planned – The Union will have something on every night (maybe don’t do every night, it’s not good for you!) – but it’s a great way of meeting new people and feeling more at home in new surroundings. Clubs and societies will have events planned too. Get involved – the more people you meet, the more comfortable you’ll feel
  • Friends will come and go – get over it. Yes you may have been friends since birth, but life changes. If you grow apart, there’s a reason for it. The friends I made at Uni have outlasted my School friends already – we see each other maybe 3 times a year, if that, but nothing changes. We get on with life, we chat every few days, but we are always there for each other. You can’t beat that.

I mentioned in my first post that my Gran would send me “The Pink’un” every week after a Norwich match. This became a highlight for me during my time at uni. Every week I’d have a brown envelope waiting in the post – it kept me in touch with home. I’d try and phone my Grans when I could, but sometimes it just never happened. My parents would call weekly, Sunday night, 6pm (a trend that lasted right up until I moved back locally!)

Each brown envelope would have the newspaper in, and a note. Often just a few words, along the lines of “Great game, I had to switch off at the end” or “Utterly Rubbish!”. Always bought a smile to my face. Gran would also, most weeks, stick a £5 note inside the paper, with another note like “Have a coffee on me” or “Get something to numb the pain of reading this” – again, something that would make me smile.

I’d often go and get a coffee and read the paper, it was like I was sat in her kitchen talking about football, but being 300 miles away. It’s things like this that make the distance seem much less – just small things that pull you back closer to home. It also acted as a trigger for a nickname (I’d never had one before!) – with everyone calling me “Pink’un” (oh it could have been worse!). For some people, it wasn’t until the final year that they actually discovered that my name was Mark. Still makes me laugh now, who’d call their child “Pink’un”! The newspapers soon stacked up in my room, and people would notice and ask what they were. It was another great talking point (and, you know, I don’t need much of a reason to talk about Norwich City!).

I hope that I made it clear to Gran how important this weekly ritual was to me when I was at Uni – sadly she’s no longer with us, but without her doing that, I would have had one less thing to talk to people about, I’d have felt much more distant from my family at home, and, more importantly, I’d probably have had a far worse nickname.