Students come, drink, destroy and leave; it’s a common theme in university towns and cities such as Loughborough.
The part-time tenants who bring such great swathes of income to small towns such as ours are all too often castigated for their loud, loutish ways and often with good reason.
Student anti-social behaviour has hit local headlines a number of times over the past few years and although there is definitely something to it, negative news again flourishes in the presence of so much good.
As a recent graduate I am by no means an angel and have divulged in some less than savoury antics in and around town, but no matter what happened I was always willing to face any consequences that came my way and in time I tamed things down, maybe through maturity, maybe through guilt.
For the vast majority however, anti-social behaviour, be it drunken or otherwise, is not something we would engage in whilst at home and away from the ‘Uni Culture’ and it was this realisation that hit me the most.
As a Loughborough resident, I wanted to feel proud of where I lived and to do something positive to show that I actually gave a damn.
Again, no angel but something definitely clicked, something which I think has slowly been creeping into the psyche of university students; especially in Loughborough where I’ve experienced it first-hand but also through hearing how things have changed for others at their universities.
There seems to be an increasing sense of pride in people’s adopted homes which to me appears to be a far cry from the ‘legends of old’ we’re spoon fed as naïve little freshers.
Whilst I totally agree and fully well know that there are still complaints made about excessive noise in otherwise serene neighbourhoods, that road signs tend to grow legs on Saturday nights and that litter and debris appear far more frequently in the wake of term time; this behaviour now seems to be frowned upon, not advocated.
And without sounding soft, I genuinely believe that now people actually care that bit more for one another.
In theory, I’d love to say that this is a strain of ‘Big Society’ thinking materialising amongst young people but sadly I don’t quite think we live in a world so pleasantly ideal.
In reality however, I see it that students are no longer going to University to just ‘get an education’, they are going there to ‘learn’.
An education of course being straightforward bookwormery which consists of devouring information and comprehending what is required to get the grades that you seek.
Learning however is a far more complex process, one which actually involves hands on involvement in a variety of activities ranging from sports, to fundraising, volunteering to society involvement. It might even involve enjoying the odd drink or two… Or more.
What hit the nail on the head for me was when an NUS delegate stood on stage telling national conference that he went to university just to get an education and not to engage in ‘soft and fuzzy’ activities; evidently, he never learned a thing and herein lies the reciprocal nature of doing good deeds within both your university and local environment.
If you’re working hard to make life a little easier for someone else, you’re immediately filled with a sense of pride in what you’ve done, whilst at the same time, it shows others that it is the minority of students that want to go out and ransack their towns, whilst the more sensible bunch (in the now growing majority) dig deep and club together.
For the purely self-interested, it’s a poorly kept trade secret that employers prefer those with experience outside of academic life so there’s even something in it for you, not just the ‘goody goodies’ amongst us.
Of course, it is very easy to cause a little carnage and then out of an immense feeling of guilt, apologise profusely. Sadly, it’s very easy to do and nine times out of ten you don’t mean it.
What does work however is action, positive social action, not to try and get away with your misdoings but to admit your mistakes and to show that you are human and you do actually care.
There will always be negative news and there will most definitely always be the one angry voice but at the end of the day, the more you work to silence it, the more you actually stand to gain.
You won’t change anything sat behind a computer screen but you will if you get out there and make a difference.