Hey, Students! Here's How to Make Sure Your Life Isn't Shit in 2014
Don't become a caricature and avoid post-pubescent Disney fans.
Photo by Jamie Taete, graphic work by Sam Taylor
This year, around 2.5 million people will live the student life. You poor buggers. And for many of last September's freshers, there will be as much as £60,000 worth of debt to look forward to the moment they collect their diplomas and get that precious first glimpse down the barrel of graduate despair.
Those who have been students for a year or two now will be starting to realise that, beneath the tranquillising veil of pound-a-pint nights and Topshop discounts, their prospects are actually pretty horrible. Increased tuition fees hit everyone starting after 2010, and now the vice-chancellor of Oxford University wants to charge his students up to £16,000 a year – AKA: not far off the starting salary for most graduates from any other university – and is arguing that other top-tier institutions should be able to do the same.
So, these days you can add academic profiteering to all the usual troubles: deadlines, freshers' flu, first-year weight gain, finding yourself, losing yourself and Tinder dates over £15 stone-baked pub pizzas. Then there's the government’s constant flirtation with increasing alcohol tax, as well as the legal-high Russian roulette they're aiding by instantly banning any new substance to emerge from Hangzhou's chemical factories.
Here are some ideas that will help you sidestep those problems and improve your student life in 2014.
Speak to People You Wouldn't Normally Speak to
Before uni, you're surrounded by half-people who aren't really proper people, in that they won't necessarily have bothered to develop their personalities or brains much beyond what their respective market town mentalities demand of them. And after uni, you'll inevitably find yourself comfortably trapped in a peer group of people just like you, all sitting around expressing the same opinions to each other.
But at uni, you can talk to a bunch of different people. People who don't drink alcohol, people whose parents didn't let them watch Made in Chelsea, people who don't have any rigid opinions on whether Disclosure ruined house or not. A friend of mine went to London Met and the only friend he made the whole time he was there was a 32-year-old mature student who worked in Games Workshop and commentated on roller derby matches in his spare time. Yes, he had beard dandruff,
After university, you're probably gonna migrate back to your social, racial and cultural demographics – sad but true – so, in the name of education, talk to the different people. At least that way, in ten years' time, you might still have a few wild cards in your contacts list.
But Ignore Anyone Who Watches Disney Films
This one is crucial. Stay well, well away from anyone studying for a degree who still watches Disney films. In recent years, Disney films – the ones starring pre-leotard Miley Cyrus, not the cartoons – have made a land grab for the teenage coming-of-age experience, which is possibly the most malicious crime committed against youth culture in the last two decades.
Films like LOL and Camp Rock don't teach young people anything about themselves, they seek to normalise a depressing fantasy of young people as mundane semi-adults. They transplant dialogue from Grey's Anatomy into situations in which 21-year-old women playing 13-year-old girls dissect the emotional resonance of not smiling at hunky Cody in the school corridor. They suck and they're nothing like an accurate reflection of any teenager in the world.
If you're gonna watch teen movies, watch good ones. Ones with obnoxious Jewish kids and fat guys who love porn: Superbad, Porky's, Risky Business. Those are the films that might tell you something about the perverted torpor of young life, as opposed to 90 minutes of good-looking Mouseketeers learning about the value of friendship.
Photo by Kieran Cudlip
Try to avoid turning into a Porky's caricature and curb your innate fascination with traffic cones/the halls fire extinguishers/the nervous system of that really quiet kid in the room at the end of the hall. It's 2014, there must be more interesting ways to be a dickhead.
Play Creative Drinking Games
The internet is full of them: "Battleships", "Brain Damage", "Charlie Bit My Finger of White Lightning". The cyberworld is your oyster. Drinking games get you drunk quick, and being drunk quick means you spend less time actually tasting the off-brand, corner shop vodka that is all you can afford with the remnants of your maintenance loan.
Get Google Glass
Hey, douchebag, put those Kanye shutter shades away – 2014’s student eyewear is here. Available at some point this year – and likely to cost as little as £1,000 a pair – the latest development in wearable technology will allow you to look kind of lame in public while maintaining the student tradition of wearing non-prescription glasses.
Photo by Oz Katerji
Get a Job
I can't imagine it feels quite right to have a ton of money as a student. Can you imagine licking MDMA from the edge of a card that wasn’t ruining your credit rating? It must be very alienating. But in the US, four of five students (that's high school, community college and university) work part-time while studying. Yes, they have to because their fees are even more criminally astrological than ours, but they also might be on to something.
If you get a job now, you’ll be able to afford twice as many shitty deliveries from ASOS and more drink whenever you go out. Plus, it'll help in the long run; hold down your retail/hospitality gig after you graduate and you'll have an income and something to punctuate the hours spent trawling through job websites. Unlike your friends, whose only respite will centre on microwaving potatoes three times a day and agonising over everything they've done to find themselves in this position.
Don’t Watch Everything Available On American TV
Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson front an all-star cast in the new HBO show True Detective? Great! Time to forget about literally everything and immerse yourself in a week of moody Southern monologues and takeaway pizzas instead.
While it might be tempting to just sit in your room, get high and watch American box-sets for the majority of your week, that's not what university is about – plus, you'll have plenty of time to have a crack at that lifestyle when you're an unemployed graduate. Soon, Netflix will be so ubiquitous that the only thing resembling a social life in halls will be the brief, obligatory moments of human acknowledgement in the dark corridors leading to the communal kitchen. And that's a worry.
I understand that, last year, if you hadn't binge-watched Orange Is the New Black and House of Cards your smalltalk would have been weak (and there's nothing but small talk at uni, other than BIG TALK with people who really like their degrees, and that's even more annoying). But that's no reason to hand over three years of your life to endless American TV shows about vampires, alcoholic police officers and gangsters in fedoras. You're supposed to leave university with the knowledge that dropping another pill at sunrise isn't a good idea, not an obsessive command of Sopranos trivia.
Photo by Oscar Webb
Start a National Revolution
Or at least take photos of one. During the past few years, all you had to do to count yourself among this generation’s most prominent political activists was play "Killing in the Name of" on some bongos outside HSBC's headquarters. So it wasn't a huge surprise to hear from Professor Christopher Hill of Cambridge University that "students are less radical than in the past". Professor Hill reckons the reason for this is "for fear of not having a job in the future". And he has a point; after all, we live in a world where one well-executed frape could make you terminally unemployable.
That said, last year American activist and author Angela Davis started reigniting that idea that "revolution skips a generation" – which should mean the Baader-Meinhof manifesto is due a revival any time now.
Professor Hill attributes our lack of insurrection thus far to "a student life that is more comfortable in our rich societies, with TVs, en-suite bathrooms etc". I couldn’t find anything concrete to prove that revolutions are pacified by a shorter walk to the toilet, but I imagine he’s right, because it's actually the small things that tend to spark radical periods.
Think of Gezi Park, or Brazilian fucking bus passes. And as Professor Hill notes, “Most student revolts have started with anger over excessively hierarchical behaviour by university authorities.” The repercussions of austerity are still unfolding in a number of undesirable ways, universities are actively preventing their students from demonstrating and those surveillance drones don't sound like the best thing in the world. Surely that's more than enough fuel for the fire?
Get a Good Degree
And then start studying another one. Or do postgraduate studies. Avoid the real world, where sarcasm is no longer charming and your degree in fashion journalism is worth fuck all. My brother has been out of university for two years. Let me tell you what he told me: “The best way to have a better student life in 2014 is to do whatever it takes to have a student life in 2015.”
Or have a look at these: