Now, for me, studying at University for 3 years and student life was a very mixed bag of ups, downs and ups. The day of the interview 3 months previous to beginning the course should have been one of the most nerve racking experiences of my life. I’m not sure why but I was very calm, maybe it was because of my previous life experiences, maybe it was because I inadvertently took the pressure off myself because deep down, I never really believed I would be accepted into University anyway. I took the short train journey to the city where the University was with my wife by my side. I can’t remember what we talked about but it was quite relaxed. Angie held my hand as we walked up from the train station to the University entrance, and as strange as this sounds, when I walked into the atrium I felt at home. The interview itself went smoothly, I was asked questions to informally test my knowledge of Literature and History and was then asked the deal breaker, “Why do you want to study your chosen subjects, why have I chosen their University and what makes me believe I will succeed”? I guess the answers I gave must have been good enough. I remember speaking from the heart and explaining it had always been a dream I had kept to myself to one day be good enough to go to University. The lady’s name was Jill and she shook my hand and said ” Well, your dream has come true, I’d like to offer you a place, you start in September. In a state of elation I walked back to the station with my wife. I had finally made it!
During my 3 years there I met some real characters, some of them not so friendly, some of them fantastic. One fellow student sticks in my mind, primarily because of his life journey to reach University. His name was Gary, he was 10 years older than me and most of his life had been a nightmare. We became friendly because we sat next to each other during the lecturers and seminars. One afternoon we sat in one of the café’s on campus drinking coffee before a seminar when he took a box out of his bag, opened it and discreetly injected himself with insulin. I asked him about his diabetes and he told me how he had become insulin dependent. Gary told me he had been homeless for several years, living on the streets of Nottingham. I’m sure he won’t mind me telling his story, so here goes. In the space of a few weeks he had been made redundant, his wife had left him, taking their children with her and his house was repossessed. With nowhere to go and no-one to turn to he begun sleeping rough, on park benches, behind tree’s and bushes, in undergrowth, in fact anywhere he could find. He was eventually given a bed in a hostel and received a pittance from the social to help him live from day to day. As often happens in those circumstances, he spent his money on alcohol and became friendly with a group of men and women who were also dependent on alcohol. They listened to him and drank with him. Gary and his friends often found themselves victims of violence just because they were regarded as low life down and outs. It was one particular violent incident that resulted in a life change for him. Gary and one of his friends had drank copious amounts of alcohol throughout a 3 day binge, and they had both collapsed by the side of a canal which runs through Nottingham city centre. Gary told me he was drifting in and out of sleep when he felt blow after blow of fists raining down on his head and body. He caught a glimpse of his friend, who was trying in vain to defend himself. Then Gary lost consciousness for what must have been a few seconds. Gary explained to me that he remembered becoming conscious for a few seconds and watching through half closed eyes the gang of men attacking and dragging his friend underneath the bridge. Helplessly, he saw them pouring something over his friend, which he discovered later was petrol, and setting him alight. Gary woke up a few days later in hospital, where he was visited by the police who confirmed what he vaguely remembered. He confessed to me that he must have sobbed for hours.
I listened to him recount his story and I didn’t know what to say in response so I remained silent. Obviously, Gary’s journey to University had been incredibly harrowing and was a testament to his character and determination to succeed and change his life for the better. He became an inspiration to me on a personal and academic level and his knowledge and life story will remain an important part of my memory for the rest of my life.
In retrospect, I believe I was meant to meet this gentleman simply because he made me realise my life journey had been a piece of cake in comparison to his. For one of the first times in my life I felt privileged and lucky to have the opportunity to realise my dream.
Posted from WordPress for Android