‘There’s T-shirts! We get T-shirts!’ Kaitlyn’s excitable squeals rose above the chatter as we emptied the contents of the box onto our assigned table. She held the emerald T to her front, admiring the stitching of the golden logo on the chest. University of Winchester Foundation Music, with a shining treble-clef and the words MUSIC MAKER on the back, in the same shimmering thread.
‘Oh, it’s gorgeous. We’ll take it in turns to change, I’ll be back in a minute.’ And with that, she flew out the door, practically tugging off her clothing as she went.
Kaitlyn and I had both been asked to represent FM at the Applicant’s Open Day that Saturday morning, and had arranged to meet at reception to retrieve the box of leaflets and instructions for the day. I arrived at six minutes to nine, bleary eyed and yawning, expecting to have a couple of minutes to grab a cup of strong tea from the machines; living in student digs means being kept up until 2am by the flat upstairs playing beer-pong or deciding to hoover their room above your head in the early hours of the morning. To my surprise, Kaitlyn bounded towards me with the box already clutched in her hands and a large grey bag, much like one that carries golf clubs, slung over her shoulder.
‘Are you excited?’
‘I am. Come on, you can carry this.’ The box was thrust into my hands and I was ushered out the door before having a chance to thank the lady behind the desk, who was peering at Kaitlyn over the top of her glasses, a look of mild bemusement painting her face. We made our way down the stone stairs to the ground floor of St. Alphege, discovering a large room with its walls lined with tables, each covered by a purple table-cloth sporting the university badge. A hand-written note declared the long table in the corner to be ours, so we began spreading the various leaflets, booklets and application forms we had across the table, setting up the iPad on its stand for soon-to-be-students to sign up for email reminders. Only minutes later were we interrupted by a lad in a rugby strip; he was of average height, with a round, pale face and blonde hair and brows that framed his electric blue eyes. His lips and nose were small and his chin protruded farther than was expected.
‘Hi, sorry, I think we’re sharing this table?’
‘Well, our names were on it,’ Kaitlyn retorted with a hand on her hip. The boy stooped down to retrieve a piece of paper from out feet.
‘So’s mine.’ The second hand-written note said SPORTS FACILITIES in a rushed scrawl.
‘Oh. Okay,’ Kaitlyn stepped aside and began assembling the banner from the golf bag she had on her back.
‘Sorry, I’ll just move these for you,’ I said as I began to shuffle our flyers further down the table to make space for his gym application forms and exercise class leaflets.
‘Cheers.’ He swung a similar box to ours onto the table, and then carefully placed a black walkie-talkie beside it. ‘Whatever you do,’ he said, ‘on pain of death – or rather, prosecution – do not touch this button.’ He gestured towards a small orange button beside the aerial of the walkie-talkie.
‘Oh, yeah? What will happen?’ I taunted, expecting him to exclaim about the sky falling in or the campus spontaneously combusting.
‘It sets off all the alarms on every walkie-talkie on campus and alerts the police. Daft, isn’t it? But if someone comes over and threatens you with a knife or something, then I suppose I can give you permission to press it.’
I let out a laugh. ‘Well, thanks. You’re too thoughtful.’
He chuckled as we continued to arrange our tables, before settling in our seats and waiting for the first hoard of families. Kaitlyn and I began playing ‘spot the musician’, attempting to predict which students would saunter over to our stand. After a few minutes, the boy leant across the empty chair between us.
‘I’ve started playing spot the cheerleader. That one there,’ he nodded towards a tall, ashy blonde girl in a tight skirt, ‘look at the legs on that. Phwoar.’ Kaitlyn looked somewhat surprised when I pressed my lips together to suppress my laughter.
‘You’re quite the charmer, aren’t you?’ I shoot at him before turning a smile towards a timid girl whose mother had tugged her towards our stall.
‘I try,’ he muttered, winking at me.
‘Hi! Do you sing, play any instruments?’ Kaitlyn bellowed, her hands spread wide to draw the girl’s attention the array of paper in front of us.
‘She likes singing,’ the mother said eagerly, prodding her daughter with her elbow.
‘Strange, isn’t it, that this time last year we were on the other side of the table?’ I said to Kaitlyn as we collected our lunch at midday.
‘What do you mean?’
‘Well, this time last year I was that girl being tugged towards the FM stand by her mum. I ended up speaking to Zoe and Sam, and I remember recognising them at the first choir I went to. These guys will probably recognise us when they come in September, won’t they?’
‘Gosh, yes,’ Kaitlyn said, shaking her head as she stuffed a handful of crisps into her mouth. ‘It’s flown by. We’ve only got, what, seven weeks left of our first year?’
I settled back into my chair and took some time to take in the faces of the teenagers around me. Some grinned excitedly at the staff behind the Student Housing desk, whilst others hung behind their parents, biting their nails. Two girls strolled up arm in arm, proudly announcing that they were best friends and would be deferring their unconditional offer unless they could share a room come September. I smiled as a nervous father cautiously watched his daughter chat with Jake beside us about joining the Cheer squad. To think, this time last year it was me trailing behind my mother as she beamed with pride, speaking of my achievements with anyone and everyone who would listen. I was so unsure as to whether I was mentally prepared enough to make such a drastic life change, but here I am now, sat behind the Foundation Music table in the T-shirt I was so jealous of, encouraging the terrified teenagers that it will all be worth it in the end. Maybe mothers are always right.