An open letter to first year students, from a fellow student…
By Nadia Leigh-Hewitson |
You’ve just started university, and this might be the most exciting moment of your life so far. Chances are you didn’t live in Falmouth before now; it may even be your first time living away from home. So, firstly I would like to offer you a warm welcome. Falmouth is wonderful, it is the epicentre of all things creative and inclusive in Cornwall. Many Falmouth graduates have stayed on in the town because it’s such an idyllic place to live. When people ask me about living here I tell them it’s like being on holiday all year round, everyone is friendly and relaxed, doing things dreck’ly. We live by the beach – what’s not to love? Sadly, with all this stormy weather has come a big dark cloud that’s hanging over Falmouth, and it’s important that you know about it.
It is all of our responsibility not to allow any hostility, and it is also in our control
Without you realising it, tension between locals and students has been building in the town. With the expansion of the university has come a need for more student housing, and this has meant that local green and community spaces have been replaced by lots of new builds to house only students. This has also led to local landlords only renting to students, meaning that often locals can’t find suitable accommodation. To be very clear, this is NOT your fault. You probably didn’t even have a clue it was happening, but it unfortunately means that we must all be a little more tentative and a little more thoughtful. There is always a sense of “us” and “them” in university towns but this doesn’t have to mean rivalry or hostility. It is all of our responsibility to not allow any hostility, and it is also in our control.
It’s important that you realise that Falmouth is a small town. Very small. What the town does have to offer is vibrantly contemporary and culturally innovative, but you’ll soon realise there are only so many bars, and all the bar staff speak to each other. There’s only a couple of taxi companies, and you bet they talk to each other too. If you think that it doesn’t matter if you misbehave in one pub or skip out on just one taxi fare, then you are in for a shock.
You are welcome here, remember that
I haven’t always lived here. I was once fresh to the town as a first year student, too. It was often very intimidating being new to the town, however the Cornish patriotism shouldn’t be confused with an anti-student feeling. It is widely acknowledged that the growing university has brought life and vitality back to a struggling seaside resort. While the docks still contribute to the town’s economy, maritime activity has declined in the last few decades and the majority of Falmouth’s money comes from tourism and, you guessed it, the university. You are welcome here, remember that.
I’ve recently returned to studying at Falmouth Uni after a three year hiatus. After I left university I chose to stay here because Falmouth is a very special place. Living here you’ll hear more and more the term “Falmouth bubble”, but they aren’t talking about being cut off from the rest of the World, they’re talking about the amazingly co-operative, active and progressive environment of like-minded peers that’s created by the combining of the locals, the students, the incomer-residents, the dock-workers, the sailors, the retirees and the artists who all call Falmouth their home. You’ve chosen an incredible place to study, you are going to meet compelling characters from all walks of life both within the university and also the wider community.
According to two eye witnesses, on Friday night several Falmouth Uni students tried to deface the memorial on the Moor. Whether it was an anti-military protest or just wanton vandalism this was deeply disturbing and offensive to the locals who witnessed it, many of whom have a connection to the memorial in one way or another. Last week various taxi companies complained of fares not being paid for drop offs at Penryn Campus, students literally running away from the drivers and leaving them out of pocket. Over the weekend, a small group of first year students were caught hiding glass bottles under piles of leaves for unsuspecting cars to drive over. Not to mention all of the extra trouble bar staff across the town have seen in the last couple of weeks. Fights have been split up, mine-sweepers apprehended, students barred before they’ve even had a chance to enjoy the pubs.
This is your home now, too…
In a town with very little crime, this makes all of us students look really bad. It makes those connections with other members of the community so much more difficult to achieve. It puts a great strain on Falmouth’s social eco-system, and now we all have to try harder because of a few short-sighted students who are failing to treat Falmouth with respect. There are some very special opportunities for Falmouth students amongst the community as a whole, and everyone will have more chance to thrive and grow if we respect our home and work together. This is your home now, too, so don’t let anyone treat it with contempt.