It’s remarkable how so many of us set off to spend the next three or four years of our life in a city and know absolutely nothing about it. Before arriving for my fresher’s year, to me, Nottingham meant Robin Hood and a big sign on the M1 saying The NORTH. Terrifying.
And in all honesty, my knowledge after that first year was not much better – other than to see Batman’s house at the nearby Wollaton Park, I only ever left campus in a taxi after a very heavy pre-drinks so could only just tell you the names of the clubs I’d been to.
However, after a four-year degree I believe I am now sufficiently equipped to explain what being a student in Nottingham really means.
Nights out (Wednesdays dressed as a smurf)
It’s what we’re really there for. First year is spent going wherever the majority of your hall is going: Monday, Coco Tang; Tuesday, Bakery; Wednesday, Crisis; Thursday, Shapes; Friday, Ocean; Saturday, Market Bar; Sunday, a day of rest. Then you come back in second year to find that the majority of these nights don’t exist anymore: Oceana is now called PRYZM (and apparently it’s good), Bakery has been replaced by Black Milk and your life no longer makes any sense.
However, because you’re a cool second year who knows the lay of the land, you quickly learn that it’s all about the bespoke nights: Caramello, Souljam, CMYK and the list goes on. And any self-respecting Nottingham student knows that these nights should be at the ever-edgy venue of Stealth. Never Brickworks. Maybe Rock City, but you will spend a lot of the evening discussing how strange it is not to be there on a Wednesday dressed as a smurf.
The only down side of a Nottingham night out is that you have to buy tickets for everything – a spontaneous night out is a thing of the past and the ‘Notts Buy and Sell’ Facebook page will become your best friend. However, after two years of this you become so fed up with this pre-planning nonsense that you dare to venture to a local night. This might just be the best thing you ever did; you can find 90s nights, rock nights, karaoke nights and all sorts – and entry is rarely more than two pounds!
Where to take your parents: the new, off-campus you
It’s likely that at some point during your degree you will have a parental visit. You hoover the entire house, throw out the collection of vodka bottles and hope they don’t need to use the bathroom because it’s covered in mould and you don’t have any loo roll.
After a bit of Googling to plan your day, you’re shocked to find that Nottingham has a castle, the oldest pub in the UK, a network of underground caves and a river (Trent isn’t just a body of people you yell at across an ice hockey pitch).
This trip into town with your parents is often the beginning of a new, off-campus you and you discover all sorts of bars and alternative places to hang out. Nottingham has an independent area where you can find the likes of Rough Trade (a record label-cum-record shop-cum-music venue-cum-café), Hockley Arts Club (the cocktail bar that is so exclusive you can’t actually find it), Jam Café (the venue so small you can barely get inside) and much more.
Soon, you’re doing wild things like walking along the canal to get to Canal House, the pub with a canal going through the middle of it. You’re cycling to the Attenborough Nature Reserve and you’re going to open mic nights at Pepper Rocks, the bar with cheap cocktails and a hot dog bar.
The shop you won’t be able to live without
At times, Nottingham can be incredibly cheap: alcohol, transport, petrol. However, you will sink into an abyss of ridiculously high debt due to one single shop: the Sainsbury’s Local in Lenton.
Conveniently positioned on your walk to and from literally anywhere, closer than any other shop, you can’t help but dive in on your way home from a depressing dissertation meeting, stagger down on a hungover Saturday morning or nip in to break a fiver because you need a pound for the 34 bus. And after two years, the Lenton Sainsbury’s will leave you thinking that £5 for hummus and pitta is a good deal.
The UoN uniform: expensive clothes that look like they've come from a clothes bank
After a few weeks in Nottingham, you realise that what was cool at school is not cool at uni and anything that says money or public school is a complete faux pas. Throw out your Ralph Lauren. From now on, you will spend the bare minimum on clothes and they will always be previously owned – any Ralph Lauren must date back to at least the 1980s. Luckily, Nottingham is full of vintage and charity shops so this isn’t actually too hard. If you’re struggling, many students turn to Urban Outfitters for expensive clothes that look like they’ve come from a clothes bank. However, a big problem you’ll encounter in the holidays is adjusting your new, urban style to be acceptable in your home county village... it can feel like you don’t even know who you are anymore.
If you’re wondering why you’re still broke, despite buying all your clothes from Oxfam, it’s because you’ve spent it all on trainers – your choice in trainers says a lot about you. Before going to Nottingham, I couldn’t tell you what Blazers, Free Runs, Roshe Ones, Stan Smiths or Airforce Ones were. Now I can tell you the brand, how much they cost and which London borough they mean you’re from.
The library of dreams
Unlike at school, it’s cool to be clever. You can be sure that the most popular girl on your course is on track for a first class degree despite going on all the nights out, keeping up with all the trends, going to the gym every day, being president of a society and going on many different dates. Unfortunately, you’ve somehow managed to get into a redbrick university and it seems to be littered with super-humans.
However, by the end of second year you’ll have got to grips with exam season and you’ll have a fairly solid routine. As part of this, you’ll have probably realised that George Green Library is a place of dreams. The engineers might have thought they were getting their own library – nope! It is so much better than the dully lit and stuffy Hallward (mainly because it doesn’t involve going up Portland Hill) that it is now the most popular library on campus.
Bad habits you’re bound to pick up
Once you’ve graduated and you’re back in the real world, you’ll notice that you’ve picked up some bad habits:
- The 20 minute walk to campus from Lenton (which actually takes 30 minutes) has left you thinking that it’s ok to be late for absolutely everything.
- Thanks to student finance, you don’t see a problem in living right at the end of your overdraft.
- You think it’s a landlord’s job to change a lightbulb.
- ‘Banter’ has left you completely unable to draw the line between funny and offensive.
- You’re so accustomed to pre-drinking that you can’t leave the house for the evening without having had a few drinks.
- You think it’s ok to drink VKs.
Emily Reay, University of Nottingham French and Contemporary Chinese Studies graduate