College Life
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Fact or fiction: Films that accurately reflect the university experience

As you come to university for the first time, you may not be sure exactly what to expect. But, if you’ve seen these films, you may have a better idea than you first realise – here are some films that accurately capture the uni experience, and may clue you in as to the shape of your first year and beyond here at Warwick.

Everybody Wants Some!! (2016)

A quick heads up before we discuss this Richard Linklater film – I really wouldn’t recommend it to you. It may be one of the worst films I’ve ever seen, without a single likeable character, and I really hated watching it. Set in the first weekend before college begins, however, it does feel like a very accurate depiction of that initial freshers’ period, particularly if you’re hoping for lots of partying and drinking.

Set in the early 1980s, the film follows a few members of the college baseball team as they move into their student house and set about trying to have fun. They are told that the rules of the house include no drinking on the premises and no women upstairs – well, if you know students, you must know that they immediately break those rules with a giant house party. Expect to come across a few of those in your time, particularly if you’re living in one of the Rootes blocks (as I did). And then, you’ve all the subcultures you’ll meet on campus, like Justin (the punk) and the many performing arts students. One of the characters, Willoughby, combines two of these in one – taking drugs and spouting philosophy, he’s every inch your stoner caricature, but he’s also secretly a thirty-something year-old, someone who simply refuses to leave because he loves the student lifestyle (tell me about it!). And, at the centre of all this is Jake, a fresher just trying to find his place at college and, on a wider scale, in the world.

It may be one of the worst films I’ve ever seen, however, it does feel like a very accurate depiction of that initial freshers’ period

The film ends on the very first day of term, so you won’t get much indication of what the rest of uni looks like from Everybody Wants Some!! (unless you count the main character falling asleep in an early morning lecture after an active night before). However, it really captures that sense of fun and partying that is almost a quintessential part of the uni experience. And, if you’re not a party fan, much like me, there are lots of quiet moments here too. Uni isn’t all partying or studying – frequently, it’s also about the time you spend with the people you meet.

Starter for 10 (2006)

Obviously, as a top-tier university, Warwick always has its own University Challenge team – so, for four people out there, this film is actually a blueprint for your uni experience. But even if you’re not one of those incredibly clever people, there’s still a lot in Starter for 10 that will resonate with you.

Brian is a first-year student who comes to Bristol University and, infatuated with the girl of his dreams, attempts to get onto UC in order to impress her. If that sounds improbable, I’d like to assure you that it’s not the case – I, as a lonely and single fresher, got heavily involved in a society just because an attractive girl asked me to. He meets a vocally left-wing student called Rebecca – if you are heavily involved with student politics and the SU here at Warwick, you will meet many Rebeccas. Brian is from Essex, and his underprivileged background is a cause of conflict with the team’s captain (particularly when exacerbated with alcohol at a freshers’ party). And, in a development that will sadly chime with many students, Brian struggles with depression and depressive episodes throughout the film, which impact on his relationships and studies.

For four people out there, this film is actually a blueprint for your uni experience

There are other lessons to take away from Starter for 10, and they’re the kind of lessons that will see you right in your first year. Brian’s team is disqualified because he cheats in the competition – it’s better to put in hard work, rather than relying on cheats and shortcuts. If you do fall in love and want to start a relationship, try to find someone who you’ll have an actual connection with, rather than chasing the attractive person you see across the room on day one (I can warn you against that one myself!). And, above all, don’t underestimate the value of friendship – everyone’s in the same boat as you, and having a friendship circle will help you through some of the hard times.

Monsters University (2013)

This may seem a bit of an out-there pick, given that your uni experience is unlikely to feature literal monsters, but go with me here. I watched Monsters University in the summer before I first came to Warwick (I’ve been here a while), and I was amazed at how true the film is to everything that happened.

The film follows Mike Wazowski as he comes to the university of his dreams, eager to become a scarer (and enter the hugely profitable Monsters, Inc. – we all know someone with their eyes on a grad job since day one). There, he meets his roommate Randall (proof that you don’t always stick around with those you meet on day one) and the lazy but successful Sulley. If you have to work hard to succeed, you’ll know the pain Mike feels as he sees Sulley get by with little effort.

I watched Monsters University in the summer before I first came to Warwick, and I was amazed at how true the film is to everything that happened

It’s all here – freshers’ pranks, the welcome fair full of societies and events, settling into your friendship groups and cliques. We see the excitement of attending modules you love (scaring) and the lack of enthusiasm when confronted with a dull lecturer and a module you hate (canister design). And, sports fan or not, you’ll certainly see the enthusiasm that takes over the MU campus during the Scare Games reflected in Warwick’s very own Varsity competition.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a true reflection of uni without some low points. Sulley realises he needs to put the work in and can’t just coast, and Mike discovers that his true skill set lies elsewhere – that the path he has been so eager to follow isn’t the one he should (I changed degree here – I know that journey). And then, despite their early promise, they leave uni and enter a low-paying job in the Monsters, Inc. mail room – not everyone angling for that grad job is going to get it, but sometimes being with your friends and working your way up the ladder is all good.

They say Pixar films are actually for adults, but who knew they had so much to offer for students too?

For more films that reflect university life, see this article from Boar Film writers of yesteryear.

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