Sunday, March 09, 2008


We drove all day yesterday and got home last night in time for dinner in front of the television and Jessica rushing off to spend the night with her friends and, probably more importantly, away from her parents.

After this trip we are now capable of doing a bit of comparison as regards the 3 universities and what to do next.

My opinion is basically meaningless... as it is entirely up to Jessica what she does and where she goes... but I can't resist a bit of generalisations on my own blog.

York A beautiful, small and traditional university with an excellent reputation and seemingly excellent academic offers. The town itself is also quite small and traditional and touristy. It reminded Desney quite a lot of Stratford and me a bit of the areas of Disneyland which try to look like olde England. This would be my first choice if I was going to do what Jessica is doing now... but at my age and current lifestyle.

Sheffield An enormous and very modern university with an excellent repuation and seemingly excellent academic offers. All of what I saw was much better, respectable, organised and enjoyable than I had expected. This had originally been Jessica's last choice and "insurance option" and I had considered it at the bottom of the list of universities she had applied to. After my visit I feel quite the opposite and could even understand if, for whatever reasons, she made this her first and only choice. There is a combination of aspects here that I feel would fit Jessica quite well. The main thing, for me personally and egocentrically, is that I feel reassured and quite pleased with Sheffield as a possible choice.

Warwick Very much the "in between" option in comparison to York and Sheffield. It has an amazing reputation which will no doubt continue to improve as it has over the recent years. It is relatively exclusive. It is neither very modern nor overly traditional and it is neither enormous nor quaint. There are some very strong family ties between this university and Desney's family and, of course, the family itself is near by and omnipresent. I had thought that I was going to be overwhelmed by Warwick. I was not. I can certainly understand if this was Jessica's first choice if she receives an offer and I would be overjoyed if she got in and went here.

No matter which university she gets in to and/or chooses I will always be a bit curious, in the back of my mind, as to what her life would have been life if she had gone to either of the either two.

Above and beyond the question of choosing the specific university and the various attributes I have come home with a general feeling of excitement about my eldest going away to university. In many ways I'm jealous. But in all ways I am proud. It looks to me like she is going to have a pretty amazing experience over the next 3 to 5 years. I eagerly await the next steps and I am actually looking forward to the future...

Friday, March 07, 2008


I spent yesterday at "home" in Leamington while the girls went out shopping most of the day. I hadn't worked much in the past 3 days and my clients needed me. It should, of course, be a good feeling that I am needed. But there are times, many actually, when I would really like to be able to truly enjoy some other aspect of my life without feeling pulled in by my professional life and all of my clients' problems... I spent the entire day in front of my in-laws' computer...

Even though Jessica has not yet received an offer from Warwick University we decided to visit anyway as it is so close by and so prestigious. Warwick has one of the top politics departments in the country and the university itself is also in the top 5 ratings overall. Hoping that Jessica receives an offer eventually we headed off to Warwick so she would have an idea what it was like and determine whether she would want to come back for an Open Day if she received an offer.

It was a very strange visit. It was different from the other two in that we were completely on our own. We did not have a tour guide nor a visit with a professor nor was it an Open Day and we had Alexandra with us this time as we had left her in Leamington while we visited York and Sheffield. In comparison York was pretty much exactly as I expected it to be. Sheffield, however, was a very pleasant surpise as I my expectations and preconceived notions were basically wrong and uninformed. Warwick University was, to be brutally honest, quite a disappointment. The buildings and ambiance itself felt like we were in a hospital complex or within the administrative centre of a government. It was neither modern nor old neither traditional nor seemingly student-oriented. It just felt uncomfortable. We got a tour map from the welcome centre and we walked around quite a bit and visited the politics department itself. Eventually we had seen enough and we headed back home...

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


The drive from York took longer than planned, again, as there was actually quite a lot of traffic and an accident on the M1 motorway. We eventually arrived at the Etruria House B&B we had booked. What a stark disappointment this was in comparison to our B&B in York. Old and dilapidated are the first words that come to mind. We got our bedroom, on the ground floor, and Jessica was led to her room on the first floor. We immediately discovered that they had built a shower/toilet area directly in to an existing bedroom in what was basically a closet. The door wouldn't shut properly. But most of all the room was absolutely freezing! There were 2 radiators in the room but the windows were single-glazed and all of the heat must have been escaping. We spent most of our time under the sheets... Jessica's room was much warmer but rather tiny. The toilet/shower area, on the landing, was disgustingly dirty and she didn't dare use it. She would came in to our room or we all used a cleaner toilet downstairs.

Eventually we walked in to Sheffield town centre. It was quite a nice, albeit cold and brisk, walk from the B&B to town and we were struck by both the cold and the hills... everywhere. Sheffield is basically a town built upon huge and roaming hills. You have to be in really good shape to get around this place. The city is actually quit big and spread out, with a pedestrian area, a touristy area and a huge area which is obviously devoted to the university students. This took up about half of the town. When we later learned how many students there were the reasoning became obvious. There are at least 20,000 undergrads at Sheffield University and there is another university in Sheffield (Sheffield Hallam) with at least another 20,000 undergrads. There are therefore about 50,000 university students (under- and post-grads) roaming around this place regularly.

We ended up eating in a pretty awful all-you-can-eat Chinese restaurant. But we got a pretty good feel for the university student life here in Sheffield. It can all be summed up by: Partying and drinking... everywhere!

On Wednesday we left the B&B, thankfully, and headed to the university which was holding its special open day for politics students who had already received an offer. Actually York was also holding their politics students' open day on exactly the same day and we had had to choose one or the other before coming. The Open Day was quite impressive with a tour all over the campus, a visit to some actual student accomodations (which Jessica loved) and finally some presentations by the politics department which were quite informative. Overall I think we all enjoyed it.

I have to admit that Sheffield was the one I was worried about. I had some pre-conceived notions that it was going to be a pretty rough and dirty city with a lower-than-average university campus. I was wonderfully reassured and proven wrong. The city is certainly quite dirty and some of the coal-coloured dirt on the front of many of the buildings looks centuries old. But the overall organisation of the city is quite impressive. The university itself is absolutely enormous, spread out over a huge campus and is entirely new and modern. Just about every building looks like it's been built in the last 6 or 7 years and most of them have been. They have put a lot of money and effort in to this place and it shows.

There were lots of presentations and demonstrations going on throughout the school and on campus which gave it a very lively and diverse feel. There were student union elections going on, campaigning in the university centre, charity bake sales, people in costumes and such...

We left Sheffield and headed back to Leamington and in the car tried to come up with the advantages and disadvantages of both universities (York and Sheffield) and realised it was almost impossible. They were very very different...

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


We drove from Leamington to York which took a bit longer than originally planned. We arrived at the Midway House B&B we had reserved and settled in a bit. The B&B was a pleasant surprise: clean, well-equipped, warm and cozy rooms of a very good size and the couple running the house were great. We headed out to visit York itself for a bit and ended up coming back to the B&B and went to a local pub for a York meal. The visit around York was actually quicker than we had originally planned as the city centre itself is actually quite small. It's all pedestrian, whcih is wonderful, and very touristy with lots of the standard franchise shops all over. We got a relatively good feel for the main part of town and then headed back to the B&B and went to a local pub for a York meal.

The next morning we went right to the university where we met a student who is in his 2nd year and who graduated from the same school and section as Jessica (Lycée Collège International Honoré de Balzac) and is also reading Politics at York. Our tour guide therefore knows precisely where Jessica is coming from as well as knowing the university quite well. He has a sister who is still in Jessica's school and I know his mother quite well. He was an excellent guide! He spent all morning with us and showed us around each building, each hall, the library, the accomodation areas, the lakes, ... all the time telling us about the university itself, the Politics department in particular and answering absolutely all of our questions. It was a great introduction to English university life in general, and York specifically, as this is the first we have visited. We found the university to be relatively small, although spread out, and quite traditional with many buildings centuries old.

At noon we met with the head of the Politics department for a bit. It was good to have a one-on-one meeting with an actual professor and we learned a lot about how the school operates, how the Politics department functions and a bit about the admissions criteria...

Once we were done with our meeting Jessica had had enough of York and meeting people and such and we were back on the road...

Sunday, March 02, 2008

A daughter in university?

Father of a daughter old enough to be going to university in September and in another country?

Me?!?!?! No way!

Reality settles in: I am really THAT old and am soon to be that much lonelier.

Jessica sent off her application to 5 UK universities last December. The university application process in the UK is nationalised and all done on their online web site. Each applicant can choose up to 5 universities to apply to. Jessica, who is looking to read a dual-major of Politics and Sociology chose : Bristol, Warwick, York, Manchester and Sheffield. All of these are in the top 10 for politics in the UK which certainly did not make her job any easier. She has received replies from 4 of them, 2 refusals (Bristol and Manchester) which she was obviously quite upset about and 2 conditional offers (York and Sheffield) which are asking for some pretty tough conditions (relatively high grades in her Baccalauréat). We are therefore going to England to visit the universities for which she has conditional offers to help her choose and to help us better understand where she may be going next year.

We left relatively early in the morning and drove to Calais, got on the Shuttle, and arrived in England. We drove up through England and eventually stopped off at a garden centre in Bicester where we looked at possible water features for our garden for quite some time. We arrived in Royal Leamington Spa, hugged our family and barely unpacked as we knew we would be leaving tomorrow for the first part of our trip...