I’m up early, I never sleep well in new places, nevertheless, I like my room and I will get used to it. Plus, we have a whole new day to look forward to.
Jen is a deep sleeper, I had to go into her room four times to wake her up in time for the tour and thanks to my early habits we were ready on time.
We finally reach the ground floor and take a few minutes’ walk from the halls of residence to the campus. The walk is pleasant, it’s a sunny day with a slight breeze brushing the loose strands of my hair back. There are students, parents and professors all around the university. We approach the Center Square where all sorts of stalls are lined up, each one selling a different society to join, handing out flyers and freebees. There is a colorful buzz in the air, some stalls are extremely busy and others are quiet. The societies range from sports, such as basketball, hockey and polo to choirs, religious societies and entertainment to subjects groups like the mathlete club. Deq takes a leaflet from the gaming society and Lia stops at the debate club. Marcus and Brian are already part of the basketball team from last year and Deq and Rio are interested in joining too, but as with most sports or performing societies, they have to complete the trials tomorrow. I walk through middle of an aisle, not really sure on what I’m looking for. It is weird because in my whole academic life I’ve always joined societies and taken part in extracurricular activities from rock-climbing to the choir, but now, I am lost. Everyone has scattered out discovering new activities. I turn to search for them, as I do, I see a huge golden man printed on a poster, his arms crossed. Oscar. Goosebumps wave over my body. The sign above it on top of a stall reads ‘Drama Society’. I subconsciously walk towards the stall. Leaflets are laid out with photos of previous plays and performances. The stage looks huge as does the auditorium. The costumes and set look professional and the photos are from actual theatre performances showing crazy expressions, great characters and exaggerated posture. I mean why wouldn’t there be, this university has its own acting school! I hear the girl behind the stall giving me some more information, but I am dazed in my own thoughts. I can feel the excitement turning into sweat. Should I? Should I not? A rush of emotions flow over my body, crashing at my heart. I locate the sign-up sheet, which has a gridded table printed on it, numbered one to thirty and on top, the heading reads, ‘Actors/Actresses’ up to number twenty six has been filled in and only four spaces remain. Beneath that are two more headings, ‘Extras’ and ‘Tech’ these had no numbers so I guess they have no limit. The extras section has only a few names but the tech section is heavily filled. I notice I suddenly have the pen in my hand. I just touch the paper with the tip when a group of four girls push in front of me. They laugh between themselves, loud and full of attitude. The one at the front has blondish, brown hair, she wears a skintight skirt and a small crop top finished with posh heels that must have been at least five inches high; if she wasn’t wearing them she’d probably only be a little bit taller than me, but right now she looked like the Eiffel Tower; tall and beautiful and overpowering. Somehow she made her trendy but strange outfit look glamourous, with a milkshake in one hand.
“Girls! This is it! The drama society!” she says with excitement but her confidence is way too much. Obviously she is the leader because the other girls are yelling her name and making supportive comments.
The leader introduces herself to the rep, her name is Betty Johnson. She will be studying Drama at the School of Acting. She too wants to be an actress and from my point of view she probably will. She has it all, but I’ve always been told that overconfidence is a defeater of confidence. The rep starts looking for the sign-up sheet. I take one last look at the empty spaces on the list and then hand it over. After all she did go through the struggle of auditioning for acting school and then was actually good enough to be selected. It is only fair for her and her three followers to fill the last spaces. As I hand the rep the sheet, Betty’s rather short friend with shoulder length brown hair snatches it from my hands and then they all turn their attention to me. The other two girls; one as tall as Betty, fair with long red hair and the other tanned with bright blonde hair look me up and down. Their faces show disgust. They look at each other and sarcastically laugh. At me?
“Oh look! Four spaces!” says the short girl holding the sheet.
“Quick get the pen,” says the bright blonde.
They sign the sheet in a hurry, while Betty’s eyes stay fixed on me, she slyly glances back to check if her girls have signed it, once they have, her strong gaze is back on me. I try to avoid her eyes, I feel uncomfortable and am now getting defensive too…so I just stare back at her.
She finally opens her nude lips, “Oh I’m sorry, were you going to join the tech team?” she takes the sheet from her friend. “Give me that! Here you go,” she hands the sheet to me with a pitiful smirk whilst turning to lead her girls away.
They leave and I am left holding the sheet with the ‘Actor/Actresses’ column now full.
“Would you like to join the tech team?” says the rep from behind.
Now that was genuine.
“No thanks,” I put the sheet on the table. As I turn around, I bump into Jen who stands right behind me. Before I can think of words and before she could ask me anything from the frown she wears, I’m relieved as Brian calls us for a tour around campus with the rest of our crew. I hurry along nervously and quickly trying to get away from Jen who follows behind me still frowning.
“So this area is the center of the university,” Marcus begins the tour from where the fair is held. “We call it Centre Square or Clock Tower because of that,” he points to a large tower with a clock on it. “And basically all the buildings surround this part. It is big, but there’s shortcuts to each building through side roads, but be sure to look left and right when crossing. Oh and there’s the student car park,” he points to an outside carpark. “If any of you have a car or if you can actually afford the monthly parking charge because it is a rip off for rich people.”
Brian continues from Marcus as we walk further down, “This building here is the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, it is the biggest school in the university.”
It is definitely grand and a mixture of new and old, modern and antique. It has quite a few entrances and exits and ramps to underground floors. Here, all the Engineering, Physics, Science and Astronomical Sciences take place. The building is connected to the School of Computer Sciences at one end and at the other end it is connected to the School of Medicine and Dentistry.
“Do you guys want to look around, they do have some pretty cool equipment in the labs underground?” Marcus asks.
“Yeah, the labs are awesome and the equipment is really expensive. Only students of this school are allowed down there. They have to scan their ID cards to get in, but it should be open to everyone for a taster today. Have you guys got your cards yet?” Brian asks me and Rio.
We both nod. The building is huge inside, the reception is spacious with benches and stools. Corridors spring left and right, there are lifts everywhere and it looks modern and neat. The lecture theatres are all sorts of sizes, some huge, other are small and some of the rooms are classrooms with tables and chairs. There are a few labs on each floor, people are in them wearing white coats, goggles and gloves, performing cool experiments. The underground laboratories are much bigger and they do have a lot of security, there are cameras everywhere! These labs have special underground entrances and tunnels where vehicles can drive in and bring goods to the store rooms and workshops. They really do have expensive material here for the engineering department and the equipment seems quite technical. I feel a little overwhelmed. This university has so much to offer! Rio is already touching things that are labelled, ‘DO NOT TOUCH’. Models and prototypes of all sorts of projects are on display, in fact everyone was interested in seeing the workshops and labs even the non-science students which explains why it’s really busy down here.
“Hey! Look! A space probe! Jen exclaims with excitement. We all take a good look at it. It is highly intricate and looks almost real… it might be. It’s someone’s final year Astronomy project. Jen glares at it lost in her own thoughts. I notice that she reads the accompanying information booklet thoroughly, then she softly touches the materials and moves the probe carefully to see every little detail. I’m surprised she knows what it’s even called, though she did want to be an astronaut.
We move on, checking out the School of Medicine and Dentistry, ‘The School of Rats’ as Marcus calls it, because of the amount of dissections they have to do. Then the Business School, which is fancy and new, as is the School of Social Sciences. The Law School, on the other hand, is an old building, full of character, like a cathedral. The library is enormous and there are plenty of open places to study and chill with friends. There are cafés scattered around campus and a few canteens too, this literally feels like a mini city. Next to the library is the School of Languages and Arts, Jen and Brian’s school, it is also quite traditional and old. We enter the building to show Jen around. We walk through reception and then pass a long corridor following Brian towards the classrooms. To my left, I catch a glimpse of what I wasn’t hoping to see…or was I? Pristine, transparent double doors end the Languages area and above the doors a sign reads ‘The School of Acting – All the World’s a Stage’, without realizing I’m already opening the doors and walking through. The hallways are lined with quotes, Shakespeare and photos of productions and plays. I look through the windows of the rooms as I walk by, there’s not much in them, just lots of empty space waiting to be filled with movement and creativity. I walk past a door labelled ‘Costumes and Props’ and another labelled ‘Tech’; both are locked. Around another corner and down a long corridor with a bar and coffee area on one side, I see huge doors and between them a large horizontal glass window. I peer through it. The School of Acting is remarkable, it’s a theatre hall! A massive one! The one in the pictures at the fair but the photos do not do it justice! Many rows of seats stepping downwards lead to a lit up stage, bright and spacious with red curtains draped back. The current set seems to be post war and looks so professional that they must have spent lots of money on it. Students hang around on the stage, with scripts in their hands, chatting, reading and rehearsing. The delicate hairs at the back of my neck stand up, I am so happy and so overawed to see this that, it makes me feel sad.
“Woah! Damn! Actors have the sickest life ever!” Rio leans on the window and looks down in amazement.
I breathe out a laugh but I’m not happy. My laugh is sorrowful and my eyes are fixed sharp on the stage…where I belong.