21 Ways to Forever Retain Your Inner Child

This article was originally published in Impact Magazine in June 2011. See it at http://www.impactnottingham.com/2011/06/21-ways-to-retain-your-inner-child/

I turn 21 today, like many have done, and I am confronted with the fact that I will be officially entering adultdom. There is no turning back. I have witnessed the years gradually speeding past me, through the wonder-years of being a teenager and then the twilight years of nineteen and ‘twenteen’. Now, I will have to face up to my responsibilities. However, I do feel that student life presents a sort of limbo between childhood and adulthood, between responsibility and carefree joy, between the real world and the world of blissful abandon. Students and children have a remarkable amount of things in common, and students seem to do well at embracing their borrowed time in childhood. Whatever your age, here are my ways in which students never lose their inner child.

Making a den:
This is the protocol for students living together for the first time. Take some sheets and blankets. Drape them across the chairs and tables; crawl underneath and voilà, you have your den. NB. you must eat/play/sleep in the den for at least a couple of days in order to appreciate its full beauty. An entry password is also recommended.

Having a food fight/ water fight/ snowball fightComplete with team tactics, ‘base-points’, shelters and an HQ.

Eating nothing but sweets and chocolate all day, every day
Just because you can

Getting naked as much as possible
Fairly self-explanatory.

Soiling yourself
Students tend to achieve this without actually trying to, surprisingly.

 Forever enjoying playgrounds, and rushing to be the first one on the slide, roundabout and swings
(even if your feet drag on the floor).

Still enjoying Smilies, fish-fingers and alphabet-spaghetti
(though this may be the extent of some student’s cooking repertoire anyway).

Crying/throwing a tantrum
The reasons for this may have changed from bodily responses such as hunger to drunkenly losing your eyelash-curlers in a club.

Drinking out of a bottle
Not really recommended, although some ‘classy-birds’ out there swapped their milk for Lambrini many moons ago.

Wearing a onesie
Enough said.

Deploying the almighty mattress-slide
The mattress-slide is the paragon of student childishness. Simply take a mattress (or two, depending on how long your staircase is) and place it over the stairs, creating a super-slide. If you want to create a proper assault-course out of your home, tie a rope/dressing-gown cord to the top of the banister and use it to ‘climb’ up and slide down again. May also be used in conjunction with the den. NB. Impact will not accept the responsibility for any part of your house breaking as a result of this activity.

‘Decorating’ your house/flat
Some students are mature and have refined tastes; some have ogres for landlords, and some wreak havoc on their homes, so your mileage on the definition of ‘decorating’ may vary. Choices of ‘decor’ include graffiti and outlandish murals.

Sleeping all day and being awake all night
For a reason, insert all nighter/intoxication/laziness here.

Getting excited about the smallest thing
Whether it’s finally learning to tie your own shoelaces or finally managing to take your shoes off after a night out.

Dancing on the sofa and jumping on the bed
(like no one is watching)

Watching Disney videos/ Nickelodeon/CBBC
because your alcohol-saturated brain can’t take anything more mentally strenuous.

Still needing a cuddle, a pat on the head, or being ‘tucked in’ to bed every now and again
It just feels nice…

Dressing up in fancy-dress
Students appear to have superseded children in the fancy-dress stakes, dressing up for any occasion, whether this be a bar-crawl or your mate’s sister’s cousin’s flat-mate’s work do.

Playing endless games of hide and seek, tag and spin-the-bottle
There seems to be no shame in playing these games, and if the hide-and-seek was instigated by your dribblingly drunken friend and the spin-the-bottle then leads to a highly regrettable one-night-stand, well, then so be it.

Happily indulging in parties which feature jelly, balloons and musical bumps
Admittedly, some student’s parties feature vodka jelly, ‘noz’ balloons and the musical ‘bumps’ of people falling over, but other students engage quite happily in the more wholesome variety. So there you go.

Camping in the garden
The novelty never dies. Except when, after a few beers, your super-cool ‘roof sunbathing’ ends in tears.

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Why the Tuition Fee Increase is a Positive Change (…By a Student)

I’ll cut to the chase. Tuition fees will nearly triple from 2012, from £3,375 to between £6,000 and £9,000 per year. This is obviously not a positive change, not least because funding cuts in other public spending pale in comparison to the 80% of cuts to university funding. The fee increase puts students from a wealthier background in a better position compared to their less advantaged counterparts, and obstructs those bright students who aren’t prepared to immerse themselves in so much debt. The myriad disadvantages of the cuts to university funding notwithstanding, I feel that the tuition fee hike will bring about a crucial change in the British university culture, then leading to a societal change in general.

The classic student stereotype of students spending their entire maintenance loan in one go, drinking every night and sleeping through lectures is, unfortunately, not unfounded. This behaviour is especially commonplace in first year, when freshers will eagerly remind one another “first year doesn’t count!”, doing the bare minimum they can to pass the year, and while most students will pull their socks up upon entering second year, a large percentage of the student body continue their time at University in perennial ‘fresher mode’.

Although, one must ask, why wouldn’t they? Most students entering University are viewed as wide-eyed and breathless eighteen year olds, fresh from their A-Levels and the confines of the parental home- and in many senses they are- but they are also adults: adults savvy and mature enough to know how jammy their position is and to recognise that they’ve landed on their feet. They’ve been handed by the government a Get Out of Jail Free card for the next three years, as well as winning £100 in the crossword competition and collecting £10 from each player for their birthdays, and they are -quite literally- laughing all the way to the bank. In a nutshell, for three years students are given the chance to spend their money in any way they choose, living a life where every day is a weekend and early mornings don’t exist, before scraping a 2:1 at the end of it all and presto: here’s your degree and guaranteed starting salary, Mr. Graduate.

In addition to this there is another, albeit less extreme, type of student who is at university for the wrong reasons. I have personally experienced fellow students confessing to “hating their course”, and there are many who just don’t feel academically inclined after a certain period. These students remain in limbo, resenting their studies and the debt they accumulate for them yet continuing in the hope of obtaining the coveted degree. Obviously, some people  genuinely end up on the wrong course but many students chose university simply because they feel that there is no other real option. University has been seen by many college students as the natural ‘next step’- as natural as the transfer from junior school to senior school, and from senior school to college. Except of course, that the tuition fee debt is not taken into account, and is very much a case of ‘out of sight out of mind’, not only when choosing whether to enter university but all the way throughout. College leavers are not given enough information about what other career options are available after A-Levels, and so will go with the majority, some of whom are, unfortunately, just following each other over the cliff.

Furthermore, both the feckless-boozer-type student and the misguided, no longer academic student have seen the rise of the ‘Perpetual Student’, those minority few who drop out and start again, only to drop out and start again, either to fuel a 36 month long Fresher’s year (they do exist!) or to desperately find the course and/or institution that’s right for them. Now, however, because the tuition fees are being raised to such astronomically high levels, students and their parents will be actively seeking out every conceivable option to make an informed decision about the future, not just taking the automatic ‘next step’, and those who are at university will certainly be much more likely to make their money worthwhile, thus eliminating both the freeloaders and the wanderers. To employ yet another stereotype, one notable category of hard workers is that of the international students, which is unsurprising considering that their tuition fees are four or five times the current national undergraduate tuition fee.

I’ll get the article disclaimer out of the way now: of course there are thousands and thousands of students who get to university, appreciate the position they’re in and work very, very hard. And of course the difference between the party animal and the high achiever is never black and white.   But already, even without the Recession, graduate jobs are few and far between because degrees are worth ten-a-penny. The once prestigous degree has now been diluted so much because every Tom, Dick and Harry can get some form of a degree, with 83 graduate applicants for every graduate job.

Admittedly, I’m playing Devil’s advocate slighty, because what’s good for society isn’t neccessarily beneficial to individuals, and just as I believe the tuition fee rise will change the existing University culture for the better, it’s still affecting me personally. My painfully bright younger sister, who would have been among the first batch of students paying the increased fee, is now taking a year out to decide if she can commit to so much debt (a heady decison for any seventeen year old to make), and she leaves another, equally bright sibling in her wake. It seems so unfair that what was laid out on a plate for me will literally be about three times harder for them, yet this is the scenario being played out up and down the country.

The tuition fee increase will undoubtedly scupper the academic hopes of thousands, but in the longer term will transform the culture of those university students riding the wave of little work and all play for maximum gain , and make those who are at university ensure that their buck goes farther, while allowing those who chose other career options to find one that actually suits them. Degrees need to be made meaningful again, not just to employers but to students themselves.