I studied Contemporary Arts at Nottingham Trent University between 1992 and 1995.
Returning 23 years later as an Alumni Fellow the first thing I noticed was how the physical space of NTU has been transformed: the Bonnington entrance, Student Union, Library former ‘Learning Resource Centre’ and the Newton building. All are in some ways unrecognisable.
But mingled among these developments, memories re-surface when coming across original corridors or rooms such as the gallery space in Bonnington and the downstairs area of The Student Union where was a Sandby Hall residence for my first year and I used to have my breakfast and dinner.
It is not only Nottingham Trent’s physical spaces that has changed; the immediacy of technology is also in some ways unrecognisable.
In my halls of residence I would use a payphone to telephone home once a week and letter writing was my main source of communication to wider friends and family. Nowadays connection can be maintained on almost a daily basis.
Students now also have a limitless potential for documenting life at University which is in stark contrast to the tiny amount of analogue photos I have of my time at Nottingham Trent with my small reel of film rationing the number of photos I would take throughout the year.
However, despite these changes, I’m sure there are still common experiences and tips for starting out as a student.
It’s alright to feel dis-orientated especially in those first few weeks away from home
Looking back my first year was largely about adapting to living independently. I can remember in vivid detail my first day at Sandby Hall. The journey from Somerset. Calling my relatives on the way, a trip to a car boot sale. My mum helping me make my room more ‘homely’ with clean sheets on the bed and photos displayed on the wall. This time together I eeked out before the inevitable goodbye. Moments after they closed the door and I was alone.
Suddenly, two friendly faces knocked and invited me to the local pub. The evening was a little overwhelming but it was definitely a good distraction so that I didn’t think too much about missing my parents. However by the end of the year I had made a solid group of friends who I also missed during the summer recess.
It is true, friends made at University are friends for life.
This Christmas, a friend I lived with during my second and third year visited with her family from Australia and although we hadn’t seen each other for quite some time the comfort of friendship forged in formative years shone through.
The sooner you learn a few basic cooking skills the better
I never quite mastered this life skill, but those who did at an early stage (my husband being one of them) have now become great cooks. Homecooked food is much better for a student budget!
Getting to know Nottingham
As a group of young freshers leaving a party somewhere in Carrington, we walked in the direction of, or so we thought, the City Centre. Two roundabouts and a hospital later, we realised that we were instead heading towards Hucknall! Doh!
Nowadays, we can input an address onto our phones and find the destination we need in seconds!
While living here, I would definitely recommend getting to know the city and learning to orientate oneself without the use of a phone. Nottingham Contemporary, The Galleries of Justice and Sneinton Market are well worth a visit.
Time goes quickly
A large chunk of my memory is given to the three years spent studying Contemporary Arts, whereas I’m not sure where parts of those intervening 23 years have disappeared!
I now work as a freelance illustrator from my studio on The Avenues in Sneinton Market.
‘Blend’ coffee shop on the corner of Avenue C is warm and welcoming and there is a wide mix of interesting independent businesses to come and meet. And of course I’m here also!
I always welcome visitors if you’d like to call by and say hello.