I recently attended a program intended to give a taste of what student life will be like to those who might otherwise not know what to expect at my soon to be university. The program is called Step-Ahead.
I attended because I'm aware don't do well in a school environment. I'm lazy, impatient, anti-social and don't respond well to authority of any kind. I figured if I can get through these three days without killing anyone or myself then I have a chance at handling university.
The program is quite simple. You arrive on Monday morning and register. You're given an itinerary, various access codes and keys to a room in the halls of residence. You then spend the next 3 days living on campus with 125 others. We get to know the school, some of the teachers and student ambassadors and most importantly, we get to know other students on similar courses.
The itinerary was very busy and included a range of lectures, team building and various projects all about teaching us how to be effective students. The days were packed, from 8am to 730pm we've got somewhere we need to be. Personally I found the pace a bit too much, once a day they'd give us a 15 minute break, the only problem with this is that at a walking pace the lecture room that we were using was approximately 6 minutes walk each way from any of the break areas.
The evenings tended to revolve around the student union bar, no real surprise there. There were Wii games (Guitar Hero World Tour), a DJ or Karaoke, and cheap drinks. Those of you who know me know that I'm not big on the drinking scene but I'm pleased to announce I went out both nights and made an effort, in participating not so much the drinking. I even took part in one karaoke song after 4 JDs and a Sambuca.
I became reasonably well acquainted with several students while I was there, mostly because they all wanted a chance to talk to the American. I quickly became known as The American or Old Man on account that I've got 10 years on 80% of them. It may interest some people to know that I actively socialized with lots of people and aside from one anti-social break down I managed to keep the attention seeking behavior to a minimum.
The mentors, the group of people (all students themselves) that were leading the program, were clearly getting annoyed with us. We were a pretty raucous group. For example, in the middle of the night one drunken student set of the fire alarm whilst smoking in his room, then proceeded to rip the smoke detector off the wall, apparently there's more to that story but I wasn't told. Several of the students noticed that with each full session the mentors were a little bit angrier and more impatient with us than the previous. At the end of it the guy in charge said "I'd like to say that it's been a pleasure having most of you here." clearly we've not been the best group.
I managed to build somewhat of a reputation with security. I'd been on campus less than 24 hours and managed to accidentally break into 3 restricted areas. It seems that if there's a broken latch or someone forgets to lock a door anywhere on campus I'll find it. Security were clearly getting a little tired of seeing me by 5:30am Tuesday morning, the last conversation went something like, "I should have known it was you Derek. Here I'll show you where the library is, you can go there whenever you like." Sorry Sid, I couldn't sleep and was looking for somewhere outside of my room to be. They really should lock the doors if they don't want people in there.
All in all Step Ahead was a good experience. I think I've got a pretty good taste of how the next 4 years of my life are going to be. I'm actually looking forward to September when I will get to see everyone again.