I had my annual phonecall yesterday evening from my old University. They wanted money, of course. In spite of being one of the richest educational institutions in the UK, they're not above trying to make me feel all nostalgic about my student days to tap me up for some money.
Having gone to a boarding school, it wasn't the first time I'd been away from home for any length of time, and so university was never really all that big a deal for me. As a result, I'm perhaps not as sentimental about my time there as I might be, and I'm not the kind of person who plans his life around the next reunion. Perhaps the university knows this. Their trick to get my attention is to get a current student on my old course to ring me up. They still want my money, of course, but they get to wrap it all up in a nice conversation about old times.
Although I have absolutely zero intention of giving any money, I always feel for the student in this situation. They are presumably doing this primarily because they need a job to help pay their way through University. They haven't volunteered to talk to old graduates out of the kindness of their hearts, they are doing it because they are paid to do it. I get no thrill at all from being rude to people at the best of times, and I'm certainly not about to get on my high horse about the begging policies of a stinking rich University to some poor kid trying to raise a bit of beer money. Instead, the student will enquire politely about my time at the University, and I'll politely respond.
The best part of my undergraduate course was the term that I got to spend studying the Renaissance out in Venice, and the student who called me last night was particularly interested in finding out about that: where I lived, whether I had to speak much Italian, how hard the coursework was... that kind of thing. We also talked about tutors (she has the same one that I used to have), how the union had changed (they're knocking it down to build a new one over the summer, apparently) and the merits of living in Leamington over living in Coventry. Small talk really, and in its own way it was perfectly pleasant. I made it clear right from the start that I wasn't going to be committing to a donation on the phone, and she didn't push it too hard. We got on fine.
The thing is though, every time I found myself being drawn out of my reluctance to talk in any depth about my time at University, I remembered that I was talking to a kid. I don't mean that in a derogatory sense, it's just that she was in the second term of her first year. This means that she is probably little more than 18 years old and was likely born around 1989. I graduated from that University some 13 years ago, and in 1989 I was sitting my first GCSE. In other words, I'm nearly twice her age and I'm more or less old enough to be her father. She was politely interested in what I was saying, but to her, I must have seemed absolutely antique.
Bless her for trying, but my God it made me feel old.
The new normal
2 days ago