Gaining a place at a Russell Group University was a great achievement for me, and I could barely contain my excitement at the prospect of meeting new people, living independently from my family and studying a degree in my favorite subject area. But although I was excited, I confess I was worried about attending Southampton. This was because I knew that Russell Group Universities are renowned for attracting upper class people. I was worried I wouldn’t fit in and be judged because I wasn’t ‘posh’.
I envisioned girls head to toe in Jack Wills, Michael Kors bags on their arms, describing everything as either ‘divine’ or ‘dire’. I pictured boys swaggering about in Ralph Lauren T-shirts and rugby jerseys with upturned collars, guffawing at each other’s anecdotes about various ‘mad’ holidays to Cannes or St.Tropez.
This image was reinforced by a leaflet that I found in amongst my freshers’ welcome pack. It advertised the Student Shop, and what picture did they think best to portray this shop aimed at students? Instant noodles? Tins of soup? No. They thought a picture of two bags of Tyrells crisps, one Cotswold Brie and Bacon flavour, one Lobster, Chilli and Garlic flavour. Seriously?! I couldn’t believe it.
This meant that I was extremely apprehensive when the time came for me to be dropped off at my halls of residence. I had also been put in catered accommodation, which was more expensive, and has a reputation for attracting private school kids not used to cooking for themselves. Upon arrival, I bumped into someone moving into the same block as me. Four words: Young Boris Johnson Doppelganger. My heart started to sink at the prospect of spending a year living in a snobbish sub-society.
However, as I started meeting people and talking to them, I realised that everyone was equally polite and welcoming, whatever their background. Not high maintenance, not stuck up- just nice, genuine people. It was at that moment that I realised that these people weren’t the problem, but that I was. I was emanating prejudice towards these people who were born the way they were and have no way of changing it; I was judging them before I had even spoken to them.
The disdain that the rich show towards the lower-middle and working classes is definitely matched, if not trumped, vice versa. We sneer at these people because we believe that they have done nothing for themselves and are ignorant towards the ways of the world. However, the reality we must all face is that it’s not their fault they’re born sucking on a silver spoon. Yes, this does make some people arrogant. But being born into money and privilege does not automatically mean someone is going to be a bad person, and I’m annoyed with myself that I assumed it did for so long.
I think the first lesson I learnt at Southampton University is the importance of not judging a book by its cover, and accepting that your class does not define who you are. Embrace the Kors and Klein clad girls, chat to the private school boys, and have a great Freshers’! You never know, you could make friends for life. Darling.
Does starting university and mixing with other class groups reinforce prejudices? Or does it show us that we’re all just students wanting to have a good time? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!