I'm a recent graduate, and I live in Fulham. Having been away at university for the last four years, I've missed the steady influx of students during term time & now find myself surrounded by them.
Now, my reaction to this was "ARGH! STUDENTS! WHERE THE HELL DID THEY ALL COME FROM?! GET OUT OF MY BOROUGH!!" But this was not due to the fact that they were just students, instead that they were the "Oh Em Gee, look at how cool and indie I am. Now I live in London we can go take over Camden Market, yah" type of student.
No, students in themselves do not annoy me - being a graduate, I was obviously a student once, *wipes a sentimental tear from eye*, so it would be a tad hypocritical to say they did. But once a student, you somehow magically become different from a normal person. Somehow, when you become a student, you join a very special category; not "young adult", not "newly independent", but "student". You studied at school for 14 years but now you're a "student".
Right, ok, you're a student (I think I've put the idea across enough now…). Now that you're labelled with this, what does this mean? Do you gain the respect you feel you deserve from your peers? Getting into Uni is bloody hard these days, surely the majority of people will think, "wow they must have worked their arse off at school…"
No. They don't. I've seen it many times but I saw this most clearly in Dec 2010. When the students were protesting the fee hikes, twitter was filled with tweets of support, but also tweets spouting "bloody students, they should just force them all to jump off the bridge they've been kettled onto".
Err…ok. So you bust your arse trying to get the grades to get into uni, then when you take part in a peaceful protest, people complain & tar you with the same brush as the idiots down the street smashing up stuff, just because you all have the same label of "student". We're all students, so we're all the same? I think not - I can tell you I've never had a detention in my life & my criminal record is as clean as the lower half of that penny soaked in that old Cillit Bang advert.
The media focuses on the mad stuff, because people prefer watching mad stuff. They don't want to worry about the issue of fees (I mean, less subsidised fees means that less comes out of the taxpayer's pocket, and for some that's all that matters, no matter what economical benefit comes out of it for society - or the fact that graduates are usually higher earners in their lifetime & pay higher taxes in return, thus paying back their subsidies in another way) or the fact that a huge chunk of these young voters voted for Clegg in the misguided trust that he would keep a campaign promise. (First rule of politics: don't expect politicians to keep all their promises, or to tell the truth in the first place…)
These people were fighting against injustice, but not all for themselves & their wasted votes. The fee hike didn't actually affect the majority that were there, but the generations to follow them who had no say in the elections - so they were fighting for others to have the same rights as them, isn't that nice? No, media? They're all freeloading idiots who don't care about the rest of society and should pay for their own fees and you're not going to listen to me "lah lah lah"? Oh…ok…
But political rant over (kind of…), advertisers seem to be even worse when it comes to building the stereotype of the lazy good-for-nothing student. When KFC launched their "snack boxes" they actively aimed at "grazing students", literally depicting students as animals nibbling on finger-licking-good chicken and chips whilst wandering around green parkland like it was a safari park. Ok, I understand that this was supposed to be humourous, but it was a little patronising - assuming that all students like fast food & lollop around eating it in public going "nom nom nom I love chicken…derrrr". And why is everything "cheap & cheerful" aimed at students? I've always loved cheap & cheerful, I don't need to be signed up for higher education! Yes you tighten the belt at uni as you rack up debt for your degree, but there is no need for advertisers to go "hey students! cheap stuff!". Students are intelligent enough to hunt for a bargain themselves and other people shouldn't be put off buying it because they're not the type of person the product is being aimed at. It also annoyed me cause I do like KFC as a once-in-a-long-while treat, but there wasn't a KFC within 10 miles of the town where I lived, which was just plain mean when they advertised directly to us students in our student union…
We've been told all our educational career that if we go off to university to get a degree, we'll be richly rewarded with lots of respect and a high-paid career. When we become students, however, we are subject to congratulatory cards telling us "uni is the best time of your life! Drinking, drinking, drinking…oh, and work!" and everyone thinks we live off baked beans. We're apparently all going to leave with destroyed livers but fantastically well-oiled bowels… A degree does not always seem a priority when talking to others…
Well my uni career consisted of working my arse off in a computer lab for two years, running societies, reading tonnes of articles, writing dozens of essays, teaching dance classes for free to fellow students…and I wasn't one of the busy ones! So many students work their arses off for years to get a degree of some form or another, doing tonnes of stuff to fill up their CV. They run events, run shows, run debates, run societies - and is it good enough? No. We're still taken the piss out of as "lazy students", being told that we're never at uni anyway. Well we didn't design the university calendar…it's not like we demanded extra holidays. I'd have been fine if term was longer - I'd have got more teaching hours for my money!
Then, many jobs that you were promised you'd get with a good degree turn round and go, "sorry, you need at least 6 months experience…". But that's a whole other rant...
So no one respects us, and we don't get the job we want because we don't have enough "experience". And often we get the same job you could get 10 years ago without a degree, but they upgrade the pre-requisites cause they know there are enough graduates - so instead of "opening up new opportunities", you feel like all your degree has done is edge other people out of averagely paid jobs, people who didn't have the opportunity to go to uni but would be just as good as you in those positions. Because of this we're then resented, not respected: "you didn't need a degree to do that - what was the point?"
So, what happens is a picture is painted: the picture of a lazy student who spends a few years rioting, drinking, comfortably defecating and eating fried chicken in public spaces, then comes along and steals jobs from people who went straight into work and have already been paying taxes for years. No wonder people hate us.
But please, that is a horrific stereotype. We are not like that. Yes, there are the occasional idiots who seem to base their uni career on The Young Ones because they don't understand the irony, but the majority of us work our arses off; days in the library or stuck in front of the computer, late nights reading, all nighters because that essay got corrupted the night before it was due (thanks Microsoft >_<)… Being a student isn't all fun and games. All I'm asking for is for an ounce of respect from those who look at us and go, "bloody students". Enough of us WILL repay society, the money spent on us by government will be worth it in the end; I plan to climb the career ladder and pay my taxes.
And to those who complain about people taking "useless" degree subjects - don't take it out on the student, take it out on the person that promised them it would make a difference to their career.