It is a common belief amongst the general population that students are usually poor. We shop in charity shops, we choose which free entry club nights to attend according to which will offer us the highest number of alcohol units at the lowest price, we buy from the reduced aisle in Tesco to save the pennies and we shiver on the walk home from said club because the £1:50 cloakroom fee was too much to bear. We do these things because, essentially, we’re all living on meagre student loans and just trying to have a good time on little funds. Except, that’s just not true, is it?
My biggest pet hate is the tendency amongst a portion of the university population to prop up this façade of poverty. It’s fashionable to be working class, even when these students are in fact middle class and well off. Scotland’s renowned hatred of moneyed Tories seems to breed an anxiety in students, if they don’t outwardly decry the rich and empathise with the poor, will they ever make friends and reach the heady heights of appearing to be cool?
I am very aware that I come from a financially secure background. If I did not want to work, or if I lost my job, my parents would be able to lend me some money. Even then, I still have my student loan. But I believe that as adults, we made the choice to move out and live on our own. I would feel childish were I to make this adult decision, then ask my parents to pay for my rent. I can admit that I am not poor. Why can’t they?
Above all else, the most irritating part is when these people expect me to be ignorant enough to actually buy the “I am so poor” story. There’s no shame in being a bit well off. You’re at Glasgow University, it’s recently been widely reported how very few working class people actually study here.
I cannot help but wonder how insulted I would be if I were a poor person living on on a minimum wage job, struggling to make ends meet, while a relatively rich undergraduate on a huge student loan with grants and funding from the Bank of Mum and Dad waffled on about the hardships of being a working-class-student. Just admit you’re not poor, and people might have more respect for you.
Then there are the students who go on near-constant charity holidays. This is basically a nice little holiday jaunt to Africa or (the classic) south-east Asia to climb a mountain or something equally as cool and fun and Instagram-friendly. Presumably when they finish their exciting climb, poverty will have been banished from the African continent. And they expect us to donate thousands of pounds for them to take this incredible trip. But it’s for charity: really, it is.
These people want a free holiday but it’s more than a little bit, well, cheeky to directly say so. Instead they add the guise of “it’s for starving kids” and expect to pull off the rouse. If these middle class students truly wanted to contribute to charity, they would find something more selfless and productive to contribute towards. Charity holidays prove how blind people can be to genuine suffering in the world. If you care, donate money to some of the many sincere charities. Volunteer in an Oxfam shop or a food bank, and do something that actually requires work.
I would love the chance to go cycling in India or climb Kilimanjaro, it would be an amazing experience. But these trips don’t deserve the praise heaped upon them; they’re not altruistic expeditions which test endurance and character, they’re relatively easy and enjoyable. And they don’t really help anybody. I don’t doubt that these trips have raised lots of money, I’m sure they have. But I believe charity is a selfless act and should be anonymous. It shouldn’t be used as a popularity tool or a front for a free holiday.
People really can be clueless about the real world. There is poverty in Glasgow, Dundee, and in many small towns around Scotland. But sadly espousing knowledge of that injustice doesn’t bring about an increase in social standing or a nice new tan, so you won't catch the faux-working class around there any time soon.
They'll be in the GUU drawing room telling boorish stories of their time spent finding themselves in Cambodia, wearing the latest in Adidas vintage clothing, and ordering another round on Mum and Dad. They will continue to ignore the real problems that exist in the world.