As I shuffled downstairs to check the morning post I spotted it from afar. Even from that distance it looked suspicious and it certainly wasn’t a bill, some junk mail or a letter from An Taoiseach asking me round for some tea and biccies. As I approached the bundle of envelopes there could be no doubt, it was for me and the insignia on the letter told me it was the one I’d been waiting for. In the few seconds it took me to ascend the stairs and re-enter my flat I looked for clues. It felt quite weighty was that a good or a bad thing? Surely a rejection letter would be short and concise? Look just open the fuckin thing and stop torturing yourself I thought to myself. I carefully prised the envelope open and slipped out the sheet at the forefront; my eyes scanned the page.....”Dear Simon.........it is with great.....................you have been accepted”. Accepted! Accepted!!! There it was. One simple word. A word which was about to change my life completely.
I can’t quite pinpoint the exact moment when I decided that heading to college as a mature student was something I wished to do. Having endured a period of my life which, to put it mildly, had been a test of my resolve I suppose you could say I was a changed man and with that change came a desire to finally do something worthwhile with myself. I’d reached the age of 32 with little to show for it other than some bittersweet memories and a world weary air more common amongst men twice my age. But I wasn’t ready to throw in the towel just yet so at a time of my life when many of my friends were settling down and beginning the long, slow descent into mid life misery I took the decision to (excuse me while I go all American) ‘follow my dreams’.
Again the details are quite hazy when I try to recall why I chose UL as the place to begin this exciting new chapter in my life. But I knew I didn’t fancy heading to Dublin, I’ve never liked our capital so shoot me, and many of the other options were too far North for a chap bred in the sunny South East. Everything about UL seemed perfect and the few doubts I had were allayed when the tentative email I sent to the course leader was answered not only promptly but with a great degree of warmth and courtesy to boot. So with my mind made up I set about applying for a place in Journalism and New Media at the University of Limerick. The application process was as thorough and long winded as I’d expected with every last detail of my life documented and accounted for. At one point I was half expecting a request to attend my local garda station for a full cavity search but thankfully this didn’t transpire.
But filling out application forms, however convoluted, is easy; the first big hurdle I would have to negotiate was to be the interview. Funnily enough I’ve never really been that afraid of interviews, although this may have a lot to do with the fact that I’ve never really applied for anything I really wanted before now. But it went without saying that this was a biggie. So after an early morning panic about the creases in my suit jacket and a longer than was comfortable wait outside the torture chamber I was confronted by the previously friendly course leader and one of his cohorts. It was clear from the off that they had agreed on a good cop/bad cop routine with me apparently cast as the pleading felon desperate for mercy. As a veteran of many cop shows this whole scenario was second nature to me and I dealt with it like a true pro. By tossing charming asides and winning smiles at the good cop and heartfelt pleas and earnest eyes at the bad cop I thought I’d done enough, but I would have course have to wait.
So with the waiting over and this joyous letter in my hands what do I do next? Having informed loved ones of the exciting news and listened to them get all emotional the enormity of what I was about to embark upon suddenly dawned on me. Four years of my life. Usually I’m loathe to even agree on a time to meet up with friends for a drink and here I was committing myself to something which I had no way of knowing whether I’d like or not. But being a changed man and all I quickly cast aside any misgivings and readied myself for what I hoped would be the start of something special. First up was of course moving to Limerick city. Now you’d have to be a special kind of imbecile not to be aware of the reputation of Limerick city but how bad could it be I thought as I settled in for my first night in my new flat. The answer? Not bad at all. Sorry to disappoint you but I quickly discovered that apart from a few shady night time characters and a way of speaking similar to that of a Cork person on crack Limerick suited me just fine. All that was left now was the college bit.
First up was the mature student induction. The opportunity to familiarise myself with the campus in advance of the braying youths arriving the following week was one I was grateful for and as I took my seat in the lecture hall I noted with some pleasure the amount of greying and balding heads in the vicinity. The induction itself was a fairly tame affair and it seemed that its main aim was to make us form some sort of vigilante mature student gang in preparation for the upcoming war against our younger contemporaries. The emphasis was clearly on making sure that we stuck together and repelled the advances of these beer sodden, unhygienic scamps who would be intent on relieving us of not only our knowledge but also the clothes off our back should we not be careful. Well bring it on I thought, let these little shits come at me and to quote Omar from the Wire “they best not miss”.
So it was with this mindset that I was to meet my classmates for the first time. Let it not be said that UL doesn’t ensure its students are well prepared for their time at the college as in addition to my mature student induction I now had to undergo an orientation day. Although my tone may appear a little mocking I would like to point out that both the induction and orientation, not to mention the whole first seven weeks campaign, were beneficial in not only allowing me to gain a vague idea of the campus layout but also in giving me the opportunity to gain some early allies in the forthcoming war against the little ‘uns. The orientation saw me grouped together with a handful of the people who were to make up the Journalism and New Media vintage for 2011. A couple of other matures instantly put me at ease but to my surprise it appeared that the few younger students in our group weren’t the rampaging, odious buffoons I’d been warned about but were instead quite civilised young adults capable of holding intelligent conversations without once referring to Glee or whatever it is the little bastards are into these days.
To be continued....................