How good does it feel to be typing up notes from today's seminar, last week's lectures; how messy my handwriting is now, after six months of nothing much at all.
A week ago today, two years since my parents drove me (shaking) to Egham and dropped me off in a flat with Kate, Adam and Reena. I can't even remember the last time I spoke to them, but I remember meeting them. Kate, bounding down the hall behind her boyfriend and not knowing which of them was actually moving in. Reena, unlocking her door with her mother, and thinking she said Rita. Adam, waving while the door slammed shut on him. We went out for drinks, we girls, but everywhere was full so we came home again and went to bed. Around midnight, feeling bored as hell, I went to get some water and ended up talking to Adam in the kitchen until daybreak.
I remember him saying he'd idealised university in his head to be this utopia of coffee shops and ragged jeans, budget cooking and deep and meaningfuls. We bonded over the unshakeable feeling that the better party was happening next door. As it happened, they were having a party next door, but we weren't invited.
This time round? My introductory letter gets lost in the post and all I can wrangle by way of information is to show up at Pavilion Parade at 9am on the first day of term. Oh, and bring passport photos.
I rock up late, 9:15, after a 6am wake up call from my dad, a two hour train journey and getting hopelessly lost in the Lanes in the pouring rain. Sit down in a room full of painfully cool people and think, oh God.
It gets better, quickly. I realise that several fashion students have mistakenly wandered into our induction and, with them gone, I see a lot more hippies. Good sign. It's also reassuring to realise that everyone else seems to be as disorganised as I am.
An hour and a half later a transvestite called Janine asks me out for a 'smoke'. Is that smoke or smoke smoke? Smoke smoke. Some time after that I queue outside the ladies in a pub only to see two men walk out together and see the shiny red condom they left in the toilet bowl.
Everything you've heard about Brighton is true. TRUE.
I can't tell you how surreal it is to be doing this again. Visiting Charlotte's halls, seeing the empty curry trays, the cider cans, the fags out the window. It's so familiar and yet several thousand miles away. I leave our coffee shop conversations to commute home, change out of my hippy clothes to the black shirts of bar work. I don't stay for a smoke, or a pill, or even a drink. I have work to do if I'm gonna afford this.
Walking into a talk in an actual lecture theatre. There's a power point presentatio set up, the SU Sabbs waiting in the wings, royal blue curtains covering the concrete walls. A room full of nervous, buzzing freshers. I'm told that university, no matter how old you are, is a once in a lifetime opportunity. The irony doesn't escape me.
The journey, door to door, takes three hours each way. That's 24 hours a week, £55 of rail fares, £13 bus fares for six hours of classes. Jo, a Leeds girl clutching a multicoloured book called 'The Politics of Ecstasy' says I'm more than welcome to crash on her floor, in fact, I could easily stay on a different floor every night of the week but it's not really an answer.
I smile instead, secretly made up that they like having me around. It's unbelievable, how easy they are to get on with. Unbelievable how much I love this city. Unbelievable how incredibly, life-shatteringly tired I am from trying to work and study full time simultaneously.
I can't remember the last time I was this excited, this nervous - except I can, it was two years ago and part of me feels so incredibly guilty that I should really be a finalist right now. I'm not though, I'm a fucking Fresher again and it feels very, very good.