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Lancaster University

Updated on October 11, 2011

I am here, in this place, where the very air is charged with knowledge; where, if you relax and stand still, you can feel the fizz of potential in the atmosphere. This is a place that never fails to give me palpitations, that fills my every cell with a nervous energy that almost overwhelms me, and a often causes me to cry. Because I am a sentimentalist perhaps, yes; because one of the greatest forces in the world that I know of exists in the power of potential, definitely.

I used to work at Lancaster University, in the very excellent English Department. I won't lie to you, because you're my friends: I did not like the job at all, because it was very dull and I was too clever for such a monotonous and tedious job. But I did like coming to the University every day, and I did enjoy the sense of pride I felt when anyone asked me where I worked. The place is full of students! And they have always been the thing that made me love this place. Freshers' Week was always a joy, the office buzzing with nervous little only-just-adults, asking hilarious questions about rooms and books and pass marks. The whole town of the university campus comes alive when the students are here, with every minute packed with activity and industry and quiet procrastination. So much potential, not always achieved - but that's alright, that's part of it, that feeling of desperation, of clinging on by the skin of the teeth at the end of every term. So exciting. And when it all quietens down during the holidays even the sunny days feel grey because the students are not here. But they come back, and it carried on, term after term, bright faces, half aware of their intelligence because they have earned a place at this prestigious institution, yet not quite believing that they're worthy: they're afraid they'll be found out one day and be asked to leave. They won't.

And at the end of it all, Ceremonies: the week in which the gowns come out of the storage, and the mortar boards are donned with incredulous pride, 'is it graduation already? But I'm not ready to leave.' The princess comes to confer the degrees (actually not any more, but she did in my day) and the whole university is covered by a veil of tears, happy ones, sad and nostalgic ones, nervous ones. Graduation is the last time that some of these friends will ever see each other, though they don't know it. I do. But that's alright, that's part of it, that feeling of hope, of clinging on to those special people who shared one of the most intense experiences it's possible to have in life.

I've had that experience (albeit on a different campus). I've submerged myself in that sea of knowledge (almost drowned, but fortunately I'd taken my rubber ring with me - almost everyone else had a proper life jacket, but that's alright, I have one now too).

So I'm back here, just for a short visit today. And what I've seen this morning is that it is actually possible to go back sometimes. Things don't change so much. The campus still feels the same, though its skin has changed a little. The students that rush about, that chat to each other about iPhone apps and X Factor and sometimes compare lecture notes, are the same students that were here ten years ago (not actually the same ones, because those ones will probably have jobs and houses and children by now, just like me) feeling full of potential, realising that the world was theirs and they just had to claim it. In the end, most of them don't claim it, but that's alright, because it's never too late. I've always had it in my mind that I would come back here as a student one day, to soak up some more of that knowledge and earn the right to wear one of those mortar boards and those gowns with the red and the grey trim. So I'll always be envious of the only-just-adults and their youth and ignorance, of their energy and vitality (though they don't know they have it, so my envy is wasted); but that's alright, I will be here, steeping myself in facts and histories, covering myself in nostalgia, but seasoning with new memories (and slightly mixing my metaphors).

I really just enjoy walking around with text books and imagining that people are watching me and thinking 'ooh, she's obviously very clever'. But that's alright.

Long live the universities, and long live students.


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    • profile image

      Y Battle-Felton 5 years ago

      Well crafted piece. I'm looking forward to being at Lancaster and I enjoyed the layers and the feel your piece gives of the campus and the experience.

    • Lady Wordsmith profile image

      Linda Rawlinson 6 years ago from Lancaster, UK

      Thanks so much. I'm going back to the university this week, for a little refreshing visit.

      Thanks for the votes, and the share, and the tweet!


    • Brett.Tesol profile image

      Brett Caulton 6 years ago from Thailand

      I love the way that you describe the energy and potential of the place. Voted this up and Awesome.

      Thanks for SHARING! Tweeted too :-).

    • Lady Wordsmith profile image

      Linda Rawlinson 6 years ago from Lancaster, UK

      Love it, love it, Chris, all that potential. Makes me wish that I could live to be 200, so that I could read as much as I'd like. But I suppose if I thought I had 200 years, I'd slow down and stop learning and waste a lot of it. Time is relative, after all.

    • christopheranton profile image

      Christopher Antony Meade 6 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

      I can well believe that it must be special, on the first day of term , in a hallowed educational institution, and it must have given you a great feeling to see all those students with their great potential. Some of them might become the brilliant scientists and artists of the future after all.

      Thanks Linda, for another of your very useful, and inspiring hubs.

    • Lady Wordsmith profile image

      Linda Rawlinson 6 years ago from Lancaster, UK

      Oh Ian, thank you. I hoped that it would have that sort of effect on someone - I had a suspicion it would be you, of course, my friend.

      Now, isn't that interesting, a 'nostalgia ... for something I never had'? That's never occurred to me before, but now that you've said that I realise that I feel like that about many things and quite often. I always feel like that when I read Dickens and Thackeray. Actually I feel like that whenever I read a history book. (What do you call those books about history, those ones that are not text books, but are not fiction either - those ones by people like Alison Weir and David Starkey and all them? Historical biographies? I'm not sure ... but that's alright :) )

      Missed you Ian - hope I'll be able to come up with more hub ideas and stick around for a while longer this time!

      Are you working on anything thrilling at the moment? I could do with a good read of your work, because I love it.


    • Lady Wordsmith profile image

      Linda Rawlinson 6 years ago from Lancaster, UK

      Last year I went back to the university where I'd been a student, jfay, and it had changed a lot too. I cried a lot of tears there last year - mainly because I got quite drunk, as I had done as a student: I thought it only right to relive the old days properly! - and I visited with a very good friend who had studied with me. It was absolutely heavenly to be there with her, to be able to reminisce with someone who 'knew'. Plus, we lived in such a beautiful place for those three years - I will visit again one day. I wished that I could have met my old self walking along the seafront and told her to work harder! Ugh, I could kick myself for not doing better!

    • Lady Wordsmith profile image

      Linda Rawlinson 6 years ago from Lancaster, UK

      Actually INFJay, when I walked around Cambridge, I carried a very posh looking camera and pretended to be a photographer for a conference. (I was actually employed as a freelance photographer for a conference, but I didn't tell my employer that I'd never used a proper camera, and that I would have to make it up as I went along - needless to say, it was awful, but I had a great time, got to visit some gorgeous halls that the public don't usually get to see, and even saw Steven Hawking! So it often pays to lie through one's teeth.)

      I haven't been to Oxford yet, but when I do I will certainly take some text books with me, just for carrying.


    • Twilight Lawns profile image

      Twilight Lawns 6 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

      A lovely and elegantly written hub, Linda. I loved it and it made me wish, as I have wished so many, many times in my life, that I had gone to university and... But that's alright.

      I have a lovely nostalgia right now for something I never had.

      Marked up and beautiful because it really touched me.

    • jfay2011 profile image

      jfay2011 6 years ago

      very lovely hub. ah the memories of being a student with a nose in a book, or paintbrush in hand. Or the old trusty 35mm camera in hand. You're right, a college student fits right in to his or her surroundings. Sometimes going back, brings lots of change. I recently went back to mine, and it had changed a lot. But the students were still filled with energy and hope for the things they were learning.

    • INFJay profile image

      Jay Manriquez 6 years ago from Santa Rosa, California

      I'll bet you walk around Oxford and Cambridge with text books too! How about a hub on "how to look like a student, when you're not, that makes people think how clever you must be?"

      As always, I enjoy reading your hubs.