Top Tens – The Ultimate Guide to Being A Student

(originally published in TVS magazine 1/8/03)

It’s now September and you know what that means. Yes, lots of pimply little snots will be arriving in this fair old city and laying waste to the chippies with their cheque books and strange ways of talking.

Hello student. Thank you for coming here and bringing those chunky student loans with you, for which some of us are quite pathetically grateful. Pitching up in a new city can be quite scary, except that most modern British cities are so homogenised you should be able to guess where all the McDonald’s are without even sniffing the air.

But Liverpool does have its individualities as well. There aren’t that many other places who have built shopping complexes in dockyards, have a radio station half a mile up in the air and have more Irish bars than the whole of Ireland.

You will make embarassing mistakes when you first come here; it’s a fact of life given that you’re a student. To help you, we have assembled a number of points it’s worth remembering as you set on your path to that worthless degree.

Let us enlighten you. Learn from these mistakes and you may yet be able to make wholly original and exciting mistakes of your own.

1. It’s Not A Holiday, It’s A Vacation

You should know now that life is going to be hard and the problem with being a student is that three years of lazing around buying White Stripes singles is not going to prepare you for that. You can approach this in one of two ways: either force yourself to work hard in preparation for the life of toil ahead, or just treat the whole thing as the longest holiday of your life this side of the nursing home. Our recommendation is to go for the latter; you never know, you might luck into some equally easy occupation that will put off proper work for a good few years to come. So try and get involved in promoting student entertainments and, with luck, a cushy career in PR could be yours.

2. Get Angry

Most students are harmless sheep, easily guided by Nat West flyers into opening punitive bank accounts and a lifetime of paying off debts. You may not be able to avoid this, but there’s no need to just roll over and accept it. The history of student life is littered with passionate if largely pointless protests. Organisations like the Socialist Workers Party depend on student participation, which gives the lie to their name. Okay, you’ll be jumping on a bandwagon, but it’s good to use the energy you’ll otherwise be wasting watching daytime TV and you’ll probably meet some interesting people. If slightly fanatical.

3. Respect the Locals

It’s not a good idea to greet the first curly haired tracksuit wearer you meet with the words “calm down!” in a high pitched Scouse accent. Invariably you’ll sound like a prat and someone will hit you. As a first time visitor to the city, the temptation may well prove over-whelming but try at least to wait until you have reached the relative safety of your halls of residence. There is a local public holiday every July where students, captured mid-twatting-about throughout the year, are burned inside huge wicker effigies of Harry Enfield.

4. Move Undetected

It’s important to understand the people you will be living amongst. For instance, ‘Scouser’ and ‘Scally’ are not the same thing. A Scouser is an indigenous resident of the city of Liverpool. A Scally is the crop-headed, track-suit wearing thug who will drag you up a back alley and beat the crap out of you at the sight of the Belle And Sebastian T shirt you’re wearing. Similarly, often you’ll confronted by a barrage of ‘scouse’ – in this case meaning the local lingo, which is redolent with such otherwise meaningless phrases as “like”, “yer wha?”, and “Houllier”. Try to remember that it does originate in English and there’s no need to talk slowly and patronisingly like a holidaymaker in Spain. People will not take kindly to this and you may as well write ‘student’ on your forehead, along with a target.

5. Drink Yourself Over the Table

It is inevitable that you will drink alcohol. Lots and lots of it. It is also inevitable that you will not have the money to do this and still keep most of your health and/or sanity. You will need to procure cheap drinks but you will want to stay clear of the nasty. To keep things simple, if you’re drinking lager stick with the 4% and under stuff and steer clear of anything higher, unless you want to wind up waking up in a soggy mess on a bus somewhere. All cheap vodka is usually three-parts lighter fluid so best avoided, but there are usually some decent offers to be found in the likes of Kwik Save and Home & Bargain. No-one is supposed to clearly remember their years at university, but you don’t want to be suffering agonising flashbacks in the years to come.

6. Beware the Loonies

You know that bloke on the corner pretending to sell the Big Issue when
they’re only clutching onto one copy and asking for 20p for a cup of tea? It’s not really for tea, it’s for heroin! It’s best not to point this out, though, as he may also be mentally instable. The problem with those who see the world not quite as we do is that their actions tend to be unpredictable. They might chuckle at your observation and ruffle your hair in an affectionate way, or you might just get a torrent of unstable abuse. Best err on the side of caution and steer clear.

7. Because The Night Belongs To Us

Sooner or later the Student Union is going to pall; not because it isn’t cheap (it is, usually) and not because it isn’t fun (it is, usually) but because you’re setting out on a great adventure in life and you’ll quickly realise that hanging around the SU is like staying at your parents, only with about 200 people who are exactly like you. So you’ll want to hit the town. To start off it’s worthwhile putting your nervous toe in the student-friendly likes of the Blue Angel, HeeBieJeeBies or the Masque (all Seel Street) or if you fancy journeying further across town try the rather famous Cavern (Mathew Street) or the gay-friendly Garlands (Dale Street). After that you can try more daring places like Nation (Wolstenholme Square), where Bugged Out is, or Le Bateau (Duke Street), which has the city’s best student night in Liquidation. Then if you’re feeling really daring you can try the 051 (Mount Pleasant) or any of the establishments on Slater Street, to get a feel or what a night out in Liverpool is really like.

8. Use Your Student Loan Wisely

Okay, you’re not going to spend money on textbooks or anything daft like that (that’s what libraries are for), so if you want more sensible purchases why not stock up on good honest weird vinyl down at Probe Records (Slater Street), or banging dance music at 3 Beat (next door). Or, if you want a more individual style of dressing, why not check out some of the odder shops in Quiggins (School Lane)? You could do a lot worse than checking out the Palace (Slater Street) or Bulletproof (Hardman Street) for clothes as well. Alternatively, you can blow all your money on a decent haircut, but that’s not what student life is about is it?

9. Get On The Scene, Man

So why did you come to Liverpool then? It can’t just be the cheap drinks and the chance to be assaulted by people you can barely understand. No, you came here because you think it’s cool and you know what? Some of it actually is. There’s the music for a start. Manchester hasn’t produced anything decent for ages and we’ve got The Coral and Ladytron, so ner. Okay, we haven’t got the World’s Best Club (TM) anymore, but there’s still plenty of other stuff going on. Even our art scene is pretty cool although it only seems to enliven when the Biennial swings around (why aren’t there any cool underground exhibition on now? What does the Static Gallery actually do?). So get involved in all of this. No exhibitions? Then open one yourself. Head down to the Bandwagon and nick all their ideas. And if you want to be cool and make some easy money, then start your own club. But you’d better know the scene, dude.

10. The Future’s So Bright…

Okay, you’ve got pissed, you’ve spent all your student loan on Queens of the Stone Age CDs, you’ve inveigled your way into Liverpool society and you’ve started your own pub. What do you do for the next two years? Move out of those student halls for a start, and get yourself a cool pad. Although you’d better be careful – the price of flats in the city centre is skyrocketing at the moment. Once installed, Liverpool is your chunky oyster. Just about the only thing left for you to do is to edit your own magazine. And you can’t have this job matey.


About klausjoynson
I'm a writer, editor, musician, DJ and cartoonist. Contact me at: klausjoynson(at) or follow me on Twitter: @KlausJoynson

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