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November 2015 - Off-campus experiences

During Warwick’s 50 year history, off-campus experiences have enriched the lives of both students and staff. From living ‘out’ in the local areas around campus, to getting stuck into local initiatives, or studying and teaching abroad, there has been lots for Warwick students to discover over the last five decades.

Coventry, Warwickshire, Leamington, Warwick castle

French and International Studies student Nate Barker moved off-campus to Leamington Spa in 2007, for his second year. “I think there were a few girls [in our group of housemates] who decided about the house, and they asked me to live with them. There was a big divide amongst the student population as to whether you’d live in Leamington or Coventry and for most of us, we weren’t doing a 9-5 degree, so we didn’t need to be that close to campus. Leamington was just “cool”, if you wanted to go out clubbing, you’d go out in Leamington.”

Visiting academic and Honorary Professor of Mathematics, Clifford Earle, describes the changes in Leamington Spa during his five-decade association with Warwick. “It’s quite different today from back in the 60s or early 70s. Leamington was on the outskirts of Warwick, but it didn’t seem to be as nearly as active or lively as nowadays. By the 1990s, it was obvious to me that it was a lively and flourishing place, and it seems to be still growing. There are people around, there are more up-scale shops around, it seems more prosperous and there seems to be a lot of cultural activity. I think the University contributes to that. It’s close enough that Warwick feels part of the greater community. I think it’s a pretty good place to live.”

Thomas Bray began his degree in German with History and Culture in 2006, moving on to an MA and a PhD in History. He spent time in Leamington but preferred to live in Kenilworth. “Leamington feels like a very undergraduate place and I didn’t always enjoy that. In Kenilworth there is a bohemian side for you to discover, you can have conversations and it’s something different. You do feel like a real person, whereas in Leamington you feel like a student, and undergraduates feel, quite arrogantly, that it’s ‘their town’. Warwick students seem to just walk the same line between campus and Leamington. In Kenilworth there are beautiful walks and places to go, and brilliant pubs to discover, but it’s fashionable to live in Leamington. In Kenilworth the people see you as an inhabitant of Kenilworth, before they see you as a student.”

Praveen Amarasinghe started a four-year Masters course in Mathematics in 2006, followed by an MSc in Mathematics and Statistics. He then worked as a supervisor of undergraduates in the Maths Institute and is now studying for a PhD at the Molecular Organisation and Assembly in Cells Doctoral Training Centre. After a first-year spent on campus, Praveen spent time living in Coventry.

“In second year I ended up in a house on the corner of the A45 and the Kenilworth Road with 13 other people; it was mad. It was one of these sort of really large houses where the rooms had been split up with stud walls. I mean it had its fun times, definitely, but the prospect of sharing a house with 13 other people... it’s slightly terrifying! Third year I ended up in a house in Earlsdon. It’s a wonderful place, I had such a fun time. We sort of kept ourselves to ourselves when we wanted or needed to but we could be sociable and it was lovely, I have very fond memories of that time, the third year.”

There was no accommodation on campus when one student, who remained anonymous during her interview, arrived at the start of her English and Comparative Studies degree, in 1966. “The accommodation was being built on campus, but there was a delay, so I was staying in a family home. They had two boys and an enormous dog and the house was filled with grandfather clocks that used to go off at different times. I had the tiniest bedroom!”

Mike Chappell studied an undergraduate degree in Mathematics at Warwick between 1979 and 1982, followed by an MSc and PhD in Maths, and finally a lectureship in Engineering. “I got to know Coventry really well. When I started, there was the big 2 Tone phase in Coventry and during the first week I went with my best friend to Coventry Poly, or Lanchester Poly as it was then, to see The Selecter for 75p in their sports hall, which was…interesting! Coventry was quite a lively, popular place – music wise in particular – it had a football team still in the top league and the city centre didn’t have as many empty shops as there are now. It was an interesting place to be at that time.”

Karen and Mark Curran came to Warwick in 1977. Karen studied at the Coventry College of Education, before it merged with Warwick, and Mark studied Law. They met at the house of a member of Westwood Church who invited students to their house after Sunday services. The couple explained why students have come to the Westwood Church over the years. “If you stay on campus in the Christian Union or Chaplaincy, or anything you do on campus, it becomes a very weird world of 18 to 25 year olds and that’s not what the world is. So we always say, ‘Get off campus if you’re a person of faith.’ We taught in the Sunday School and then Youth Groups. Our involvement in the church encouraged us to stay on after university. In the early 80s [Canley] was a very needy community because the car plants had closed in Coventry and so there was high unemployment in the community here and related socioeconomic issues. So that was an attraction - to try and help people in the community and build on that the work of the church.”

David Mussell, an undergraduate of the first 1965 cohort, founded Warwick’s hockey team and took on the captaincy for three years. “The university set up tables, and that’s where we recruited our hockey team members. And the girls obviously set up their team, and between us, we could put out a fairly decent mixed team, which used to play on Sunday afternoons, a very social sort of thing, against local mixed hockey teams. We played our first game against the teacher training college down here at Canley. We didn’t have any pitches, at all, since the University ones hadn’t been built. We rented pitches in Coventry and played on municipal pitches, and also there was the Coventry and North Warwick Sports Club, which was linked to one of the local firms - and we played there as well. We also played cricket against the local school and the big house at Stoneleigh in the grounds there.”

Many academics and students have had the opportunity to enjoy periods of study, teaching or research in other institutions as part of their time at Warwick. Rowland Cotterill, who taught as a member of the Department of English and Comparative Studies, took the opportunity to go with a delegation from Warwick to the University of Wrocław in Poland to give lectures. “This was arranged by the British Council to facilitate connections between them and universities in Eastern Europe who found academic life difficult to maintain under communism and the reaches of Soviet Russia. They were keen to nourish a sense of academic scholarship that wasn’t automatically subservient to imposed political norms. I was bowled over by the experience, I met people who were amazingly hospitable, academically ambitious and intellectually avid and contentious. I went back again and again, even organising a dramatic performance as part of one of the conferences.”

Listen to November's accompanying podcast here to find out what goes on behind the scenes at Warwick and stay tuned for next month’s instalment.

Click here to listen to the full interviews featured in the blog (and podcast). Browse the page by searching for a particular participant in the search bar, or scrolling through the alphabetical list.