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what I learned from studying at the University of Warwick

Bright drinks, birds and the bubble: what I learned about Warwick uni

Here are ten things I learned about the University of Warwick during my time as a student there.

1. The University of Warwick is actually in Coventry…

Like many wide-eyed freshers, I turned up to university eager to explore the town my uni was named after… only to learn that Warwick was nowhere in sight! I only went to Warwick town once and that was almost two hours and two buses away. The university is located on a campus near Coventry. It was set up by officials from both regions, though why they decided to name it the University of Warwick when it’s so far away remains a mystery.

2. And Coventry is our rival!

While you won’t see much of Warwick town, there are plenty of days and nights out in Coventry – and a friendly university rivalry to accompany it. Most Warwick students are quite smug about our success against our rivals, who have lost the annual Varsity sports series (made up of a mix of sporting events like rugby, football and badminton) to Warwick every year it has run – ‘29 years undefeated!’. Maybe next time, Coventry.

3. What a bubble campus life can be

From Curiositea to Warwick Arts Centre, from the Copper Rooms to the uni pub The Dirty Duck, campus is a hive of activity. It can be great to roll out of bed straight into a lecture and not have to navigate a huge city when you start, but there are plenty of cons to studying and living in the same place. It can feel like a bubble – a bit more like a wild boarding school than proper independent living – and there’s a long commute in the years where you live off campus. Never mind the shock when you graduate if you find yourself alone in a large city for the first time.

4. The importance of the Koan

A sculpture adored by all students, the Koan is a rotating white… cone… with fluorescent light strips. It was built by sculptor Lilliana Likn in 1971 and lived in the courtyard outside the Warwick Arts Centre until a couple of years ago, when it was moved to the other side of the woods at Gibbet Hill Campus. It is supposed to represent a Buddhist question without answer. Parody accounts have thousands of online followers, and a little rotating model is even the mascot of Warwick’s University Challenge team.

5. Brightly coloured drinks are a staple

From the aptly-named ‘purple’ downed when pre-drinking for POP! (the SU’s weekly cheesy-tuned disco), to the lurid yellow/green mix of energy drink, sparkling wine and shots that make up Kelsey’s ‘Eliminator’, you’d better prepare yourself for lots of dubiously coloured drinks if you’re going to hit Warwick’s nightlife. Or you could just drink something normal (ridiculous suggestion I know).

6. Birds are everywhere…

In its marketing materials, Warwick boasts the highest duck-per-student ratio of all UK universities and it doesn’t disappoint. Not only are there flocks of ducks, there is a total of 56 different types of bird on campus, which swarm at the slightest whiff of bread. This includes Warwick’s infamous Canadian Geese, known to hiss, honk and chase many an unsuspecting fresher.

7. ...as is cardboard!

During autumn and sabbatical officer election time, the entirety of campus is covered in painted cardboard signs. Mimicking real politics, they usually don’t say much more than ’Vote for X’ in bright colours without explaining policies, maybe with a funky slogan or nickname. Beware if you live in halls or brave POP! on election week, because you’re bound to be accosted by candidates and their friends trying to get you to vote for them.

8. The Coventry vs. Leamington divide

One of the biggest opinion dividers among Warwick students is where off campus is best to live in second and third year. Coventry is cheaper and often has quicker travel times, particularly local student hubs like Earlsdon, but Leamington Spa generally wins out among the student population (Kelsey’s anyone?). Some students even play a wildcard and move to Kenilworth to lurk among the ageing population there, but seriously… why? The castle and dying high street don’t exactly scream student living.

9. Mission impossible: getting a seat in the library

First of all, if you’re a fresher and using the library during exam time instead of sitting at your desk in your room, please stop. With only one library, Warwick has a ridiculously low library space per student ratio, made even worse by the fact it’s a campus university so during the third term the library is absolutely swamped with stressed second and third years. It gets so bad during peak weeks you’ll be lucky to find a space at 9.00 am – so get in early or scout out an unconventional study spot elsewhere (my flatmates and I swore by the Oculus during finals).

10. Different accommodation blocks have different vibes

From the expensive hotel-esque accommodation Bluebell to Cryfield, which is rumoured to be modelled from a Swedish women’s prison (its corridors are two riot shields wide), Warwick has a wide range of halls of residence for you to choose from when going into first year or if you manage to secure accommodation on campus in later years. All 14 blocks are positioned in different areas of campus and have their own vibe. Choose carefully!

Julia, University of Warwick politics graduate

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