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16th March 2024

Community strength is the best thing about university. Long-live my house share!

As I stare out of a library window, well and truly into dissertation season but thinking back to the joys of St Patrick’s Day, I’m reminded of how lucky I feel to live in a tight-knit student community
Community strength is the best thing about university. Long-live my house share!
Credit: Mikey @ Flickr

It’s once again approaching the best day of the year. Spirits are joyously high around campus, wardrobes are ransacked for any thread of green glimmering from the depths, and The Vic is probably changing its kegs as you read this. No, Santa Claus isn’t coming to town; St Patrick is due to hop off the 143 at any moment, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

The university experience has taught me a lot about essays, Londoners, and the uselessness of an umbrella in a Mancunian storm. But perhaps my biggest takeaway is the depth of feeling young adults harbour towards national holidays and cultural festivities. That might sound like a bit of a pathetic answer to a question regarding my nine-grand-a-year undergraduate degree, but this observation has genuinely led to me re-fostering a hope for community spirit and shared joy. I love to get excited and stuck into holidays and events that really have no cultural relevance to my lived experience, and university indulges me in a child-like lust for life that allows me to do exactly that.

This year, my girlfriends and I have attended a “Galentines day” party, we’ve hosted a Christmas and Pancake Day feast, pulled together some fancy-dress shockers for three nights of Halloween festivities and probably a million more themed parties, and we’re currently priming ourselves for a merry St Patrick’s Day, donned in green and no doubt spluttering over Guinness. So many little celebrations that lose all meaning in the no-man’s-land of mid-teenagerhood, when you’re no longer making palm crosses or Easter bonnets at Brownies, are reinvigorated by the pizzazz of a student-centric city and the companionship of communal living.

In amongst all the planning, hosting, drinking, and fake-tanning that comes with such a commitment to celebration, I think there’s a visceral need among young adults for connection and shared experience. Intimidated by the future and unsure of next year’s plans (can we even call it next year now?), third-year has only exacerbated my friends and my desire to funnel our energy into any festivity we can lay our hands on. Honestly, if you told us it’s your Mum and Dad’s silver wedding anniversary, we’d happily throw them a roaring party fuelled by ‘squashka’ (squash plus vodka, obviously) and a deep yearning not to give up community living just yet.

The clubbing industry is seeing a downward turn in custom and, at least in my experience, pubs seem to be getting busier and busier, making them better and better. The desire to chat, say hi to the neighbour you pass in the street most days, or maybe tell your library crush you fancy them, all while basking under the orange glow of a pub’s outdoor heater is, to me, conducive to the contentedness and stability of knowing you belong to a well-integrated community. Whether that community be the University as a whole, Withington, Fallowfield, your society, or even just Blue 3, what better way is there to express shared connection than the communal excitement of a holiday that meant nothing to you three years ago when you started at university.

Maybe I just love students’ commitment to the bit, but finding any excuse to have fun, eat, drink, and socialise is a deeply frolicsome part of university life that I’ll be seriously unhappy to say goodbye to. Suddenly I’m understanding the hype about “15-minute cities” and walkable communities – if this is what fuels an appetite for finding joy in the small things then long-live my filthy six-resident house and fake tan Thursdays. After all, shared joy is double joy!

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