Students' and Parents' Experiences

Clothes Horses, Extension Leads and Laptops

When Ollie got three offers we, being southerners, thought he would choose London or Cardiff, but, no, he liked, and wanted to go to, Sheffield.

In the summer we decided to do a recce of Sheffield. The city has a friendly air about it; big enough not to get bored in but with a small town community feel. The University is in a beautiful part of the city. When we saw the hills we thought it probably wasn´t a good idea to bring up his bicycle. We checked out Halifax Hall, peering cheekily through the windows of the students´ bedrooms.

When the day finally came we set off with a mixture of relief and trepidation. The car was weighed down with most of his belongings, things that I had become used to, his music centre, cds, (I was getting to like Coldplay) football boots (wouldn´t have to clean them again), hockey stick, tennis racket, gym membership – is the boy ever going to do any work?

We drove up on the Sunday. His room did seem rather bleak at first , but the first thing he did was to put up his enormous poster of the London Underground, which strangely enough made us all feel better. It soon became clear that he would need quite a lot of things that we hadn´t thought of: extension leads, something to dry clothes on, adhesive hooks and room freshener for a start. As we entered the hardware shop it was teeming with students. I approached the shop assistant but before I could get a word out he said, `Clothes horses on the right, extension leads on the left.´

When we saw the queue for collecting the Registration Forms our hearts sank. There seemed to be thousands of students, but the line moved very quickly and by the time I got back with the coffee Ollie was already registered.

After noticing that all students seemed to possess laptops, we succumbed. The myriad of laptop choice is mind-boggling, a sea of small blinking attaché cases reaching far into the horizon. We took the recommended `student´ one from the man at John Lewis. I carried it to the car with the instructions not to drop it.

We stayed in Sheffield for the Sunday night, to ensure he was settled in before we left. I think this made us all feel better.

I watched the comings and goings of the other parents: dads and mums and siblings going back and forth to their cars with teddy bears, portable televisions, enormous suitcases, shelving, small fridges, electric fans, clothes horses, prolonging the moment when they eventually had to say goodbye. Hugs, kisses, firm handshakes, one young boy was inconsolable at the thought of parting with his older brother. By the time we left, Ollie´s room looked comfortable and cosy. I pointed to Kings Cross on the map and said. `It´s not that far you know.´ I gave him a hug and then he hugged his mum. I noticed that this took almost twice as long, which is the nature of things.

On a good day the drive takes two hours, on a bad day it can take five. Ollie phoned after a few days to say that he wanted his bike. M1 here we come.

Owen O´Neill