It’s been 7 weeks since I left for university and, I thought, a good time to reflect back on my time in Bristol so far, from London, where I’m visiting friends and family for the first time (It’s incredible how confusing ‘I’m going to London for the first time’ or ‘I’m seeing my family for the first time’ has been. Someone asked: ‘You’ve never been to London before?’, while another – more taken aback – said: ‘You’ve never seen your family before?!’).
I really like Bristol as a city. London’s great, and I’m pleased I grew up there, but it's nice to be somewhere so refreshingly different. I needn’t have worried there wouldn’t be enough to do. There is, yet in a space small enough that you can walk from one side of the city to the other. In London, you can hardly walk anywhere. The only time I’ve ever had to take public transport in Bristol is to get to the station, the one place slightly out of town. While it’s vivacious, it’s not too crowded or frenetic. You go into Central London or the West End and you’re exhausted by the time you get back onto a packed tube even outside rush hour.
Everyone outside of London seems friendly in comparison, but the people in the street here seem particularly helpful. Take an example. There are boards with maps on dotted around the city to help you find your way. Whenever I'd stop to look at one in the first few weeks, someone would come up to me and ask if I needed directions. I would then just stand by one looking bewildered if I was ever lost and wait for someone to point me in the right direction (it never took more than 10 seconds). Also, it’s nice to run into people so much. A combination of living in London and going to school a long way away meant that would rarely happen before. Little things like that and being able to have lunch at home etc. I really appreciate.
The bits of freshers’ week I can remember were great. Because I turned 18 just weeks before leaving for Bristol, my only experience of clubbing in this country had been Missoula in Chelmsford – and those of you who know it will appreciate how great anywhere else seems compared to it. The novelty of clubbing, therefore, hasn’t worn off, and maybe I’m overvaluing clubs in Bristol consequently, but the range – from Thursday nights in Thekla to Tuesdays in Lizard Lounge – is pretty good for somewhere with less than half the population of Birmingham.
Student prices are amazing too (again, especially coming from London), and you only need to look at which bands came from Bristol - Portishead, Massive Attack etc. - to get an idea of how good the music scene is. The uni seems excellent too. My lecturers I like, and the seminars are engaging even when we're not debating whether or not private schools should be abolished or what Italy should do post-Berlusconi.
The societies, as well. I've spent countless hours with Bristol Labour Students. Whether it's in Spoons (while the Tories are in a deli in Clifton!) for breakfast before a day of student politics, at a protest, a speakers' event or in the umpteenth pub we'll go to after a meeting... they're a great lot. Then pub quizzes with the Politics Society, pizza with Club Italia... I could go on. I was recently fortunate enough to interview Ann Widdecombe for the student newspaper, which I’ve been writing for.
Basically, there's so much going on (and more work than I expected) that I've had none of the time on my hands I'd thought I'd have. Of course, there are people and things I miss and things the uni isn't so good at, but it's been an enjoyable experience so far; long may it continue.