University changed my life, just as it will change the lives of those school leavers who enrol for the first time this autumn.
But I didn’t particularly enjoy my first term or my first year. I was in one of the oldest and most traditional halls of residence, but my shared room was squashed away in an old block mainly filled with much older postgraduates, and it was on a corridor with only two other new students. That wasn’t a disaster – one of the other students in my block ended up being the best (wo)man at my wedding 19 years later. But my living conditions made it harder to integrate as a fresher.
So, when I entered my second year, I made an effort to befriend the two girls who shared the room I had been in. They were charming and determined to succeed at university. But, a few weeks after, one of them caught meningitis and died almost immediately. It was a terrible shock to all of us who knew her and it was a tragic waste of a promising life. There is something especially poignant about someone dying on the cusp of one of life’s big adventures and soon after leaving home for the first time.
Meningitis is relatively common among freshers, as thousands of people from all over the country (or even the world) gather together for the first time. My own memories of what happened to my friend back in 1991 remain all too vivid. So, if you are about to enter university and have not had the vaccine, please consider getting it done.