It’s October now, so for those at university their term is well under way and they should be getting into the swing of things.
Now, I live in Cirencester, home to the Royal Agricultural University and all those who study there. Those of you who are aware of the stigma attached to that RAU student title may be thinking I’m about to jump into a rant about how they’re now here in their swarms ruining my hometown. But I’m not. No, I’m on your side aggies.
I will admit that a few years ago I, too, fell victim to the prejudice though. Before I moved further out into the sticks I lived in a lovely, large Victorian house on the end of a terrace of four in between the town and where I live now. The houses here were expensive and the owners were all very proud, taking great care and spending a lot of hard earned cash on keeping the houses looking grand. Then an RAU ( it was RAC still then) student had the other end-of-terrace house bought by his wealthy parents for him and fellow students to live in. I’ll give him credit, he was OK. His other tenants not so much. Not at all. Not one bit. Think cars: everywhere, parked lazily and awkwardly, in front of drives and heaven forbid anyone else had a guest who wanted to park on the roadside… They were loud and boisterous no matter what time of day. They liked parties. They liked to shoot pigeons with their shotguns from their garden and windows which sent some of the local pets into a frenzy. They let the house fall into a mess with weeds and rubbish and old furniture all lying about. If we were living in a student area this may sound quite common (minus the shotguns I’d imagine…), but we were not. It had a knock on effect on the value of the rest of the houses and the ability to sell, and it was making the time and money the rest of us spent on our houses seem pointless and year after year it was getting on everyone’s nerves. Back then, about five/ six years ago, the students also came across differently than they do now. They were more disruptive on nights out at the one Cirencester nightclub, supermarket workers would moan about their arrogance and lack of ‘real-world’ skills. They parked anywhere they liked in the town and don’t expect manners if you had to deal with one in the town centre…
OK, reading that I feel like I sound like a 75 year old and not a 25 year old, especially because since then I left Cirencester and became a student myself and then moved back. But trust me, they were bad, and they were a nuisance for everyone. Hence the bad reputation. Those that acted like this, which I know won’t be all students that went there, had given the college a bad name.
Things seem different now. To me anyway. I used to work in an expensive country clothing store in the town that was frequented by the students and actually, they were polite, normal human beings. They seem just that, more… normal. I don’t even think I’ve heard “well my Daddy will not be happy about this” for years. They fit in and they get on with their lives and their studies.
I’ve also noticed an increase in the amount of locals studying there now, which I feel is a really good thing. It’s easy for us growing up here to forget that we have such a prestigious and popular agricultural place of study on our doorsteps. Although I will admit the reputation it had and the students that made themselves known around the town about the time I was looking at places to go put me off even looking. And I cringe at that ignorance now, trust me.
At the end of the day, they come here and immerse themselves in our town. They put money into our parking machines and our bars and our shops, they don’t walk around in shell suits and bright white trainers shouting abuse at old people, they don’t steal or vandalise. They are making their life in agriculture and therefore I salute them for that. Because agriculture is great. I personally like to see people embracing the wellies.
The local country types around me are the worst, they still have that image of the old style aggy in their minds and they mock them or moan, but why? You both drive defenders and you both wear a fleece gilet. You both enjoy the same hobbies and have an interest in the land. So what do I think it comes down to? The stereotype the old agriculture student used to bring of immense wealth handed down to them and lack of sense. But trust me when I say, I really believe that stereotype should have died out a long time ago. It affected my view of the place and the people and probably wasn’t even true when I was growing up to be honest. It was just what I had been told so that was what I saw, and it’s only now that I see this. However, ex-neighbours of mine, YOU are not forgiven.