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The Uni Experience, now and then

Posted: by Rhian Thursday, 28 July 2016 @ 15:39

I always loved talking to my parents about their University days, I remember the differences between our experiences seemed staggering. With young people heading off to university soon we had a quick look at the differences between university experiences over the years – and here’s what we found out…


NATASHA 2012- 2015

(current age 22)

RHIAN 2004-2008

(current age 31)

JO 1986 -1989

(current age 47)

HUW 1971-1975

(current age 62)

Home town:

Which university?


Tuition fee: 




140 miles

£9000 a year

BA English literature


 Middlesex University London

 287 miles

£3000 a year

BA Journalism & Communication


Nottingham University

143 miles


BA English Literature & Language


Manchester Poly

208 miles


BA Art & Design

How did you feel when you first arrived? Nervous but excited! But I quickly warmed to my flatmates and neighbours with the help of some Dutch courage. I remember turning up to my halls of residence that looked like a prison block in wood green (a particularly rough area in London), disgusting shared bathrooms, horrible kitchen and crying – crying for hours! I remember thinking I’d made a terrible choice – I couldn’t have been more wrong. Looking back I realise how horrible that must have been for my parents at the time

Terrified! I hadn’t been away from home much before that, and I was a year younger than everyone else in my class at school, so I felt very young, very alone, and very scared when Mum and Dad left. However - within 2 days, I started partying, and made a whole bunch of new friends; and within a week, I’d fallen completely in love with the university, the campus, the town, the course and the independence. I loved every single second of uni, except for those very first 2 days!


Excited and scared, it was my first time away from a small welsh town and in to a big city!
How did you communicate with home? Calling, texting, and our family WhatsApp group

I had a mobile phone and was in touch with my parents weekly, we also emailed, but there was no social media then, Facebook hadn’t been invented (thankfully!)


Long before mobiles! I made a weekly Sunday evening call from a payphone in my hall of residence, with Mum and Dad immediately calling me back to save me money.  I used to phone home once a week and reverse the charges from the pay phone.
How often did you go home and how?

I went home during the holidays but never during term-time, because of unreliable train routes and crazy fares. I feel so guilty about this now, and my mum hasn’t let me forget it!


I’d head home for every holiday and the odd weekend in between, it was a long old train journey up north. Then there was a smoking carriage on the train, which seems utterly bizarre now! Luckily, I had a car – my folks were brilliant, buying my sister and me a second hand Metro before uni – so I would drive down for a weekend every couple of months. Only at the end of term and I hitch hiked
How much was a pint?  £3 - £4.50 £2.80 £1 for cider on campus – and I downed many of them! 14p
What was your uni pet peeve?

Dirty housemates - nobody wants to deal with piles of other peoples’ washing up, mess and blocked shower drains.


Probably the sports teams and their ridiculous rituals, or food theft Lectures at 9am – I didn’t always make them. I loved my sleep in those days That the pubs closed at 10.30pm
What was your go to meal? During first year, I’m not proud to admit we basically lived at the Whetherspoons next door (when we weren’t ordering in Dominos). I did sometimes cook for my flatmates though A bacon and hashbrown sandwich, the best hangover cure. Other than that the only meal I remember us cooking in the house was fajitas! We lived on Chinese food and dominoes I’d love to pretend it was something healthy, but it was McDonalds, Chinese takeaways and white toast…..

We took it turns and cooked the same meal each a week, my speciality was liver, mashed potato and gravy

How did you do assignments? Either on my laptop at home, or at the library. We submitted everything online. I had a laptop, then they’d be emailed to tutors and a hard copy taken to the lecturer

Handwritten. Long before the days of laptops for students, or even computers in the lecture halls. All was slides, hand-writing and many late nights writing essays….


We took it in turns to write up our thesis on a shared typewriter
What advice would you give to someone going to uni? Three years goes so quickly, so make the most of it! If you’re thinking about joining that society, auditioning for that play, or writing for your student paper- go for it while you can.

You don’t need any advice really, you’ll find your way. But I guess I’d say don’t worry, it will be scary but they’ll end up being the very best years of your life

BORING TIPS: Set up direct debits for bills so you don't get stung with a big bill and get internet banking!

They genuinely are some of the very best days of your life, as you are mixing with loads of people your own age, but with completely different backgrounds and experiences. Don’t be too tied to friends at home, or spend all your time visiting old friends at other uni’s – throw yourself into your new uni’s social life. You’ll meet some amazing people, and make loads of new friends, if you focus on the people in front of you, not those on your iPhone screen….


Just do it, a great experience, sets you up for life!!
The best thing about uni? Meeting new people from completely different backgrounds, having new experiences and having your mind opened to new ideas.

Your first taste of real freedom and independence, broadening your horizons in a new city, mostly the amazing friends I made and will have for a lifetime


The absolute joy of independence; and the great mix of intellectual stimulation combined with socialising. The feeling of freedom and independence
Are you still in touch with your friends and how?

Yep! This month I went to a festival with one of my first-year neighbours, who became my boyfriend of three years and counting, and one of our best friends from uni, and we’re all planning a trip soon with some other university friends. It’s so easy to keep in touch with social- we all talk every day! 

Absolutely. They’re still my best friends (I live with one), with Facebook, Instagram, skype and what’s app it’s so easy. And as with any true friends, when you meet up it’s like no time has passed Mostly email and Facebook month-to-month, then fantastic weekends when we do get together I do, the guys I’m in touch with are via Facebook bizarrely
Biggest fashion disaster:  Questionable DIY dye jobs. So many terrible ‘art student’ hair cuts, including some kind of mullet mohican The ballgowns at all the end of year balls – I still have them all, and they look very 80’s!! My flare hipsters, they were so low they were always falling down


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