### Plot #2 – Rags to Riches
If the process of gaining a Warwick degree could only have one plot, it would be one of Rags to Riches. From first to final year we inhabit a world common to Oliver Twist, the ugly duckling and the young King Arthur. We, like them, arrive in rags – the shabby garments of the undeveloped mind; like them, we grow, mature and prosper, donning the regal robes of graduation by our story’s end.
And yet, as we enter the final week of term two, this tale of transformation doesn’t quite ring true. You haven’t reformed your work ethic – the spines of your books remain uncreased on your shelf and you are exhausted from that end-of-term essay rush. The notion that you are getting more intelligent seems preposterous as you lose marks for yet-another failed attempt at referencing. Rather than looking forward to an Easter break, it will be filled doing the work you should have done this term. As for revision, forget it. As far as you’re concerned, “revision” is just an abstract noise that you’re going to hear a lot of over the next few months.
Added to this, your finances are shambolic: the overdraft is down to the final dribble and the bills keep coming through the letterbox. Any hope of doing a Masters degree is going out the window as Research Councils slash post-grad scholarships yet another year in a row.
Why didn’t anyone tell you that taking your degree doesn’t pay? Or rather, why didn’t you listen? And what do you mean I can’t get a career progression loan? I am progressing.
When I first arrived at Warwick, the banners read “Intellectual Capital”. I can see the intellectuals, but where is the capital? Where is Nigel Thrift’s ‘Quantitative Easing’? Show me the money Nigel! Where are those scholarships which tuition fees were meant to enable? The tuition fees which have trebled student debt burdens just as the job market falls to pieces. The Class of 2009 has evidently done something to anger the Norse God of Positive Equity.
And it is money that divides the path Warwick’s of rags to riches plot. On the one side we have those chasing literal riches, New Labour’s wet dream: students from a multitude of backgrounds taking the opportunity that Warwick’s high teaching standard and impressive reputation among recruiters gives them to get a job with the firm that pays them the largest starting salary and has the biggest Games Room, regardless of morals (BAE Systems, HBOS anyone?). ‘What do you want to be when you’re older, young man?’ ‘Whatever pays me the most, Professor.’
And there are those who choose the other path, the idealists, chasing the metaphorical riches of self-satisfaction from doing a job for enjoyment and artistic fulfilment. Having spent three years swaddled in the Arts faculty’s warm blanket of idealism, the chilling reality of the brazen monetary obsession of their peers is a jarring sensation. For them, the only financial perks the future holds is cheating the Tesco’s self checkout: buying an assortment of vegetables at a baking potato rate (91.6p/kg, fact fans); getting extra green points for ‘overestimating’ the number of your own bags you have used.
But fear not, our hero usually emerges into the light – and you should too. The sunbeams of a monthly salary, pension contributions and increased outgoings will soon be warming your back. But beware the fate of Julien Sorel. Don’t strive too hard for your riches. Each plot has its dark side.
### Plot #3 – Voyage and Return
In _The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe_, a group of children travel out of familiar everyday surroundings into another world completely cut off from the first, where everything seems disconcertingly abnormal, a parody or distortion of something familiar. They find the experience initially exhilarating, but eventually a shadow intervenes, and increasingly threatened, even trapped, they eventually thrillingly escape to the safety of the familiar world they began at.
While steering clear of drawing parallels between the White Witch and any of Warwick’s fine administrative staff, it’s not hard to see an element of the Voyage and Return in Warwick life. Every Monday to Friday during term-time, a group of slightly older children board bright pink vehicles that take them to a magical world, one not only different to the provincial towns of Leamington Spa and Canley – with their gardens, fountains and Curry Miles – but also surely, to any other British university campus.
You see, while our Students’ Union exists in body, it’s certainly not there in social spirit. For the hundreds of us flooding onto campus each day, the centre for our socialising is the library, that admirable institution which provides the facilities to fulfil almost all our daily activities. From half 8 in the morning until a pale-faced librarian starts dropping hints around midnight that it’s time to leave, students never need leave the building. Reading, drinking, eating, socialising, hell, if you want to exercise why not run up and down the stairs next to the Book Return. No-one uses it for anything else.
Not that doing all this in one place is easy. The switch from obsessing over Margaret Thatcher’s industrial relations policy to offering witticisms over 90p’s worth of hot-water-with-a-tea-bag-in isn’t one that can be made by walking down two flights of stairs. Most students get round this by being a bit socially backward, or falling back on observations about Library Café sandwiches’ excellent line in puns (I personally believe they thought of the names first, and designed the sandwich after – why else would we have two egg-based offerings), but there is a special breed of student who goes the other way, not letting their work get in the way of a good day’s socialising. For them, getting their seat is just the beginning; it won’t be used for work, mind, more as a base camp for hourly circuits of the floor to meet-and-greet.
Yet the abnormality of this Voyage and Return tale comes not just from the library’s position as chief social hub, but also from the distortion of something familiar, the escalation of a something petty and childish into hours of fun. Trying to sneak a hot drink up to your fifth-floor carrel becomes an epic Pacman-esque journey in and out of bookshelves to avoid being spotted by a trolley-wielding librarian. Watching people try to subtly admire themselves in the mirror of the lifts is always a treat.
But the library also elevates norms of social behaviour into a larger issue. Upon entering the library, every wannabe scholar becomes a grumpy hypocrite. If someone dares to talk, a student will make the point of looking up, rolling their eyes and letting out a loud exasperated sigh. “This is a library, you know.” When the shoe’s on the other foot, and the same student is the one caught chatting, they’re equally annoyed about the prissy uptight person in the corner who made a real show of staring across, rolling their eyes and letting out a grunt of disgust.
The initial exhilaration of campus and actually doing work is soon replaced by exasperation, and once the caffeine highs have worn off it’s time to pack up, board a bright pink bus, and return to the relative normality of Leamington Spa, the city that never sleeps (Is this right? Ed).