One of the pleasures of being a mum of a teenager is the University Open Day.
In the autumn we set off at the crack of dawn for our first day out at the University of Bath. We both liked it, but Bath is a campus university, located out of town, and dissected by its very own 1970’s concrete self-contained shopping precinct. The teenager’s chosen field of study, we were told, was well over-subscribed. The entry requirements are high and Bath can afford to be picky. There was a sharp, disapproving intake of breath when we mentioned the teenager's US education to the Admissions Officer. Therefore, we cast our eyes further afield and the following week we set out for Bristol.
Bristol. Yes, this the place to be. The teenager fell in love with it immediately. We spent more time admiring the Gothic architecture of the city centre than worrying about the course content. And why not? If you are going to have to live somewhere for 3 years then you may as well live somewhere you like.
We toured the accommodation blocks, some way out of town, some in the thick of the city centre. You want night clubs, one the student guide told us, then this is the place to be. The teenager nearly moved herself in on the spot.
Two more open days followed, both in London. The husband and I had already decided to steer the teenager in a westerly direction after three years of heavily subsidising daughter No 1 in the capital. Fortunately, we need not have worried. Nothing, it seemed, compared to Bristol.
Last week we were back in Bristol again. An offer of a place now secured, the teenager was invited to a taster day, further encouragement – not that she needs it – to name Bristol as her first choice.
While the teenager went off to sample lectures, we parents were plied with free tea and coffee and expected to mingle. This doesn’t happen of course, because we’re British. However, these occasions are always interesting from an observation/researching the next novel point of view – there’s always the Ab Fab type mum, more trendy than her daughter, parents who seem even more addicted to their techno toys than their offspring and the couple arguing over the parking metre expiry situation and inevitably heading for a divorce.
At the end of the afternoon the teenager was scheduled on a lab tour. As it was late in the day, and the Bristol traffic is notoriously bad, everyone else in her group had already departed, so I was invited to go along.
We were met by a post-grad student eager to demonstrate the wonders of his electro something or other research into brain responses. He had rigged up an experiment and sat the teenager in front of his computer monitor with a simple instruction to press a clicker at certain sounds. This she duly did.
‘Let your mum have a go,’ post-grad student said, obviously needing more than one example to prove/disprove whatever theory he was working on.
I’m not sure how many years he’d spent on his research but the teenager and I are apparently a psychological phenomenon.
‘It must be genetic..’ he said with a baffled expression on his face.
Apparently our responses to the experiment were not the norm…in fact the only other participants, he informed us, to have achieved the same results were all American….
Two years on and it seems the US psyche is still embedded in our soul. We left him perplexed, and re-writing his project parametres….
Meanwhile, although the teenager's brain may well have remained in California, her heart is still quite firmly set on Bristol.