The book that changed my mind about university

In the words of Monty Python: “And now for something completely different!”

This blog has been filled with loads of helpful advice and tips but I thought it would be nice to include something a little different.

When I started sixth form I had no idea what I wanted to do in the future and thought that university was only for the privileged and the wealthy- looking back now I realise how wrong I was.

So one day towards the end of year 12, my English teacher recommended a book to me- as she often did. She was an inspiration to me and part of the reason that I went on to pursue English Literature at university. Oh, and the book she recommended was Starter For Ten by David Nicholls.

Books shelfThis wonderful novel is set in the 1980s and follows Brian Jackson, a working class lad who is a little obsessed with general knowledge. The novel charts his misadventures as a first year literature student as he navigates the strange world of student life, falling in love for the first time and desperately trying to gain a place on the University Challenge team (hence the title). The novel was also adapted into quite a good film in 2006 starring James McAvoy, Benedict Cumberbatch and James Corden,  however it was the language and style of the book that I found mesmorising- in fact I read the book in just two days.

As much as I hate to admit it, I saw myself as someone who was similar to Brain Jackson. We both had a love of books and general knowledge, we both had a tendency to use words that we did not understand and both of us were certainly not the coolest or dare I say “trendiest” of people. Perhaps it was this reason alone that made me think: “If Brian can do this, then so can I.” Of course you will have to read the novel to find out exactly how Brian’s misadventures come to an end, but I certainly hope that my time at university ends in a more positive light (which will mark the end of our “similar” adventures.)

I realised that my thoughts of university had been determined by outdated stereotypes and Oxbridge set novels such as Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh that were full of show-offs and people who acted as if they had a sense of entitlement . Starter For Ten, however, presented a university experience that is rarely shown in fiction or film, one that is the exact opposite of the typical stereotypes and, as a result, is significantly more down to Earth. Now I realised that university was a place for all sorts of people. It is a place to reinvent yourself, experience new things and study the topics that you have always wanted to study.

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My incredibly dog-eared and worn copy of Starter For Ten

Somehow this book made an deep impression on my 15 year old self and six years later it is still one of my favourite books- and one of only a few that I have read multiple times since. Each reread re-enforces why I wanted to go to university in the first place: a passion for the subject (thanks to Mrs Yates!), a passion to learn and the realisation that university is place for all types of people, even me.

 

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