Sex, alcohol and clubbing is a mixture that’s commonly associated with Britain’s new students, and The Secret Life of Students makes no exception to the rule, combining a raucous concoction of lad behaviour, drunken flings and a healthy slice of Chlamydia – all within the first episode. Lizzie Roberts from
the Guardian agrees: “[Shows like this] continually over represent the same image of students; as drunken, rowdy and irresponsible in their sex lives.” All these attributes certainly factor into Channel 4’s new series, but this is only half the story; beneath the bombastic electro soundtrack and alcohol-fuelled antics, there are also some extremely relevant issues being dealt with by the show.
During the course of the series we are introduced to 12 students who are all from very different cultural and social backgrounds. One of the first characters we meet is Lauren, an 18-year-old History student who does not drink alcohol. This is a completely normal lifestyle choice, but at University it does set her apart from her flat mates. We follow her movements for the next month as she struggles to fit in and find a group of friends that she feels comfortable with.
In the second episode we are introduced to Brenda from Tottenham, a hard-edged, straight talking twitter addict who continually battles with her finances throughout her first three months at University. Brenda decides to take on a full-time job to help her bank balance, but things take a dramatic turn as she struggles to juggle University work, social life and her job, leading to her becoming extremely sleep deprived and ultimately having a panic attack at work.
Another student we meet is Gemma, who is also struggling to manage her time at University; with the ‘love of her life’ boyfriend Ben living three hours away, she naively visits home every weekend to see him. This winds up in her concluding, to the dismay of her parents, that she has to leave University to continue her love life. We watch the fallout of this decision. These examples are not fabricated scenarios just for television, and neither are they isolated incidents – these are real life stories that I can relate to personally from my first year at University.
The programme raises a very broad spectrum of issues which first year students face in their first few months at University – from the innocent acts of over sleeping, missing lectures and handing in work late to more complex situations, such as falling in love with your flat mate or coping with homesickness. It really does help to remember there are thousands of other students going through exactly the same motions every September.
The Twitter Reaction
Some students took to Twitter to praise the show:
While others weren’t quite so sure:
Clearly there is some debate over how much this programme actually represents students and the process of joining University, but let me make it clear: I am yet to see a programme which hits this subject more on the head. From my own experience, if you want a good guide to help you with understanding what to expect when you join University The Secret Life of Students is a perfect place to start.
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