Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Open Daze

From my sister who has lived this...
So here we are on our way to a University Open Day.  We travel eagerly to some god-forsaken place we’ve never been to before (and in truth would never want to go again), in search of information to make our Informed Decision on where to send our little darling after he has finished goofing off at school while pretending to study for A levels.

After my research on the net (I still have nightmares about the UCAS website), we (and I use the term loosely – it was me and a sleepy adolescent nodding occasionally while he recovered from another Chekov-induced coma), trawl through the various courses and the relevant entry requirements. Mmmm... this one looks good… oh, you need 680 points plus the ability to stand on your head while riding a llama through the Gobi desert… ditch that idea…

But ‘we’ eventually decide on the obligatory six course choices.  As a dutiful parent I then sort the necessary arrangements to make the horrendous journey with offspring in tow to the University of Lower Trugville somewhere off the M395.  On arrival we eventually find our way to the Registration Desk (using the ‘map’) and discover the welcoming committee. 

“Hi there!  Welcome to Blah Blah Uni - I’m Lucinda / Georgina / Pipkin / etc….” 

(Why is it always some gorgeous, leggy vision that my son makes a beeline for?)

“What course are you interested in?" she purrs… My son pipes up: “Dictatorial Studies with the opportunity to take Joint Honours in subjects such as Hagiology and Tenemus studies.” 

Wow! “Son, since when have you been interested in this?” I murmur.

“Well only recently, mum …”

Yeah, yeah, yeah… methinks this is just an excuse to goof off for another three years.  Perhaps this is the new Media Studies…

We are duly shown where to go for the introductory talk by the Vice-Chancellor / Principal / Head of Faculty / Chief Cook and Bottle Washer.  This is where the really big sell rears its ugly head. Lovely lecturers. Lovely students. Lovely campus. Lovely degrees. Lovely…  But have the oddest feeling of déjà vu.  Did I not meet this chap selling time-shares in Torreador les Palmtrees?

After sitting through the ‘chat’ we then go off on the campus tour. Always around the best features of the uni, which could invariably be viewed more comfortably from my computer chair using the 360º views on the web.  But we trudge obligingly round ooohing and aaahhing at the various facilities, at cheerful, smiling second-year students dragged out to display the quality of scholar they attract. How much do they pay them, I idly wonder.  And then the super-lovely sports hall where the gorgeous, leggy vision happens to mention her interest in rock climbing, running and basketball.  At this point I notice said offspring adopting the stance of a seasoned rock climber and basketball veteran and nodding in a knowing way… Get away, lad! The most exercise you do is walking to the car and back again!

We consult the map again to find our way to the Student Talk.  My son sits, there with avidly interested, as the delectable Lucinda / Georgina / Pipkin recounts the downside of student life: numerous bars and clubs all within easy reach (all selling really cheap beer), the endless parties, student clubs, rag weeks, time off from lectures.  I watch fascinated – my son is riveted.  This is the most attention he has paid to anything since he was breastfed.

We chat afterwards.

 “So this is what you want to do, ehh hmm? –  three years here?”

“Oh but mum,” he says, “there’s a Thick Sandwich.” 

I’m interested now. BLT or perhaps tuna and mayo on wholemeal?  I am peckish and it’s been four hours since breakfast.  No. All this means, dear reader, is that said darling does a work placement during Year 3.  (Oh good. A break from the crippling fees, accommodation and upkeep of the little darling I think, but wait - don’t get too excited. You still need to pay fees to the university of choice during this year.)  I retaliate: “Yes… well… I remember your work placement in Year 10 – trying to chisel you out of bed to get the bus to ‘work’ eight hours a day like the rest of us – while all the time you were bemoaning the institution of work and how it should be abolished.  I can’t think of anything that has changed your attitude since then?” “Oh mum, this is different.” Harrumph.

After a brief lunch break, it’s back for the course chat from some bespectacled professor who specialises in Quodlibetic studies and talks ad nauseum on course options, points required, lectures and seminars, personal tutors and dissertations until the pain is so bad I will sign up for anything if I can escape and get back to normality.

It’s finally over at last and we trudge back to the station to relive the torturous journey home. 

“So, son, what do you think?” 

“Yeah - looks great.”

And then I ask the inevitable question... “So, what will you be qualified to do once you graduate?” 

“Well, after that you go on to take…”