I remember my first breakfast in the Roger Kirk centre. Walking in at 10:29 sweating and shaking (I was hideously hungover) I looked for a place to sit. Fortunately thanks to being well acquainted with the 2004 hit Mean Girls (celebrating its tenth anniversary recently) I was well aware of the potential pot holes.
“Would you like butter on your toast?” the woman behind the counter asked. “No” I replied curtly. I knew her game.
Looking around I identified the main stereotypes: international students, geeks in knitwear, hipsters in knitwear, people who looked like they exercised and one guy in a Metallica t-shirt. Before I had a chance to decide what category I fell into, I heard a voice. “Hey, sit down,” a girl I recognised from the introductory talk said. “Where have you come from?” she asked. “I just moved here from bed.” I answered blushing slightly. “What?” she replied looking confused. “I do English Literature,” I said, blushing even more. “So you’ve never actually been to a real lecture before?” she asked bewildered. “Nope,” I finished, eating my unbuttered toast in shame.
Fortunately, the year did not end with me eating breakfast alone in the toilets because The University of York is honestly not a lot like North Shore High. This being said however, I feel it is not true that all forms of ‘playground politics’ disappear the moment that you leave senior school. Whilst most students would claim to be too mature to discuss the subject at length, it would still appear that perceptions of cliques do exist.
Living in a small house last year any sort of domestic cliquing wasn’t really a problem. We had to be friends otherwise we would face the great British phobia of awkwardness. Visiting larger accommodation blocks however it would appear that whilst the kitchen is a happy sanctuary at home, at university the kitchen is given a whole new social meaning. With different friendship groups associated with different kitchens, making a cup of tea has never been so complex. “That kitchen doesn’t mix with anyone,” one friend remarked in hushed tones as we passed one darkened door. Not wanting to fall victim to the cast of The Hills Have Eyes , I walked a little faster.
Similarly, nearly every society has been accused of clique-ness or stereotyping at some stage. On many occasions I have mentioned I write for Nouse and had people do a double take as though expecting me to sprout a tweed blazer and a pretentious attitude. I have also spoken to a lot of students that have wanted to join certain sports but haven’t because they fear they would not fit in with ‘that crowd’. And descriptions of YUSU and the JCRC’s have been so similar to those of the Corleone family that it is truly a miracle that the university horse still has its head.
Having a chronic lack of staying power and joining a large amount of societies however, I have found that these perceptions are simply unfounded. Naturally people who have similar interests and spend a lot of time together will have forged strong friendships. But the majority of these people will be friendly and welcoming if you actually speak to them and express a similar interest in the society.
No one will shout “she doesn’t even go here”- unless you genuinely don’t go here. Similarly if you venture into a rival kitchen for a cup of water they probably won’t skin you alive.
University provides a fantastic opportunity to meet people, and this shouldn’t be wasted due to perceived clique-ness. Don’t let misconceptions of a group put you off getting to know them. You can sit with us.
I remember my last dinner in the Roger Kirk centre more than my first. My table was formed of international students, people in knitwear and people in sports clothing, all united by a mutual fear of soon having to cook for ourselves.