The University of Nottingham has a diverse array of wildlife: the squirrels, the geese, and, of course, the students. However, the latter has such a great number of sub-species that it can be hard to stand out and rivalries will inevitably ensue. We have the lads’ lads; the druggy lot; boys and girls hopping out of the closet (and sometimes back in again); the rugby boys; the indie crowd; the cool kids; the norms; the geeks; the freaks; and of course, the ‘rahs’. Nobody likes to think they might belong to a cliché clique, but with the boarding school mentality of halls aggravating the desperation of most first years to find the ‘right’ friends and fit in before dreaded house hunting begins, groups will appear.
New students come to university seeing it as a fresh start: a way to define themselves as an idealised, mature person, without the embarrassing incidents of their pubescent youth still being giggled about during morning registration. Yet within the first few weeks, groups will form, stereotypes will be observed, and gossip and false impressions will spread. The ones who start a book club during brunch on Sundays will be scorned; the gym boys who frequently bundle in the quads and the buff girls who pull off natural beauty will be worshipped from afar; the girls with big hair, cool cars and a Jack Wills bag stapled to their spray-tanned arm will either be watched carefully and talked about or completely ignored. Perhaps this last group of people have become the most ‘discriminated’ against in recent times. Many would have never heard of the term ‘rah’ before they started to look at universities to apply for, or perhaps it was a new term upon arriving there. But sure enough as soon as they return home at Christmas, there are competitions and discussions on how rah their university is. These students are seen as figures of intimidation and gossip, as ‘elite’ people only worth as much as their parents transfer into their bank accounts.
But whilst I shall try to hold back from pulling quotations from Mean Girls, I will suggest that this is not the way to go about your first few year at university, as initial impressions often stick. It would be a ridiculous thing to waste this unique opportunity to spend a year with so many peers, from so many different walks of life, by immediately limiting with whom you will make friends based merely on stereotypes and appearance. But it still happens. You would be surprised at how an individual’s true personality can be masked by the way they walk to lectures, or whether they even attend them, the methods they use to carry their dinner tray, the way they laugh, and perhaps the most misleading, the general impression others give you about the whole group of people belonging to a certain ‘clique’. Everybody comes to university with aspirations of having a successful year. Most see themselves attending lectures, being successful in their degree, and making lots of great friends. Whilst it may not take long for the first two ambitions to fall short, it is the latter that will make your university career the most amazing time of your life! So use this rare opportunity: approach your peers with an open mind; and do not be swayed by assumptions about people as we have all heard the saying about judging books by their covers (something you will do in Hallward Library many a time over your degree) enough times. Make all the friends you can, acquaintances are good to have over the next few years, as you never know when you’ll be lost in Oceana!!
Michael De Vletter