Friday 29 September 2023
Excitement bubbled within me as I woke up. The prospect of visiting the Open University (OU) headquarters in Milton Keynes and meeting the dedicated staff who orchestrated this weekend filled me with anticipation. Before embarking on my journey, there were tasks at hand – packing for the weekend adventure and ensuring my daughter received her flu jab.
The morning unfolded into a whirlwind as I dashed to my local train station, bound for London Bridge. From there, I would catch the Northern Tube Line to London Euston, the gateway to my final destination. I arrived at Euston surprisingly early, over an hour before my train to Milton Keynes Central was due. A stroke of luck allowed me to board an earlier train, a concession likely prompted by the looming train strikes that would commence at 6:00 p.m. Many others shared my eagerness, making the station buzz with pre-weekend anticipation.
Finally, I escaped the packed train at Milton Keynes Central, opting for a cab ride to the Kents Hill Conference Centre. The swift check-in process led me to my room, a welcomed haven after the bustling journey.
A lifeline appeared as a message from Hannah, a Students Association staff member. Her offer of a lift for the next day alleviated my concern about reaching the University from my current location, bringing a sigh of relief and a grateful smile.
Dinner brought me face-to-face with a diverse crowd. Were these fellow OU students attending the fair as well? The mingling anticipation added to the electric atmosphere, heightening my excitement for the upcoming event.
Preparation mode activated. I meticulously organised my essentials for the fair – raffle tickets, sweets, and a carefully curated playlist on my laptop, promising funky tunes to enliven the atmosphere.
With preparations complete, I surrendered to bed. Rest was essential; tomorrow marked a crucial day of engagement and representation.
Saturday 30 September 2023
Eager to enjoy a peaceful breakfast before the day’s whirlwind began, I descended early, hoping to find tranquillity amidst the bustling accommodation.
A text from Hannah reminded me of the day’s schedule. With a quick breakfast, I hurried to meet her. Together, we explored the campus. The sight of the library and other landmarks affirmed the reality of my presence at a genuine university – a surreal feeling that filled me with pride.
Jessica welcomed me to Walton Hall, the epicentre of the fresher’s fair. As I settled into my designated spot, a mild panic washed over me; the space seemed vast, and doubts clouded my mind. Swiftly addressing my concerns, Jessica and I rearranged our setup, ensuring it was inviting and inclusive. My focus reoriented, reminding myself of my purpose: representing the students of Black, Asian, and Minority ethnic backgrounds and being a welcoming face for the newcomers.
Fully prepared, our booth stood adorned with flyers, lively tunes, and an array of sweets. The absence of a poster for our free raffle threatened a hitch, but Jessica’s magic touch resolved the issue within minutes. Now, we were truly ready. Before the fair officially commenced, I took the opportunity to visit other stalls – OUSET, The Space Society, the Creative Writing Society, and the Sustainability Society, not to mention encountering Lou, VP of Student Engagement, dressed as a Banana. Engaging with fellow students and networking further fuelled my anticipation.
The moment arrived – the fair opened its doors. Excitement coursed through me as I met numerous new students, all sharing my enthusiasm for being at the headquarters. The idea of a fresher’s fair in person resonated deeply with them. Despite the lower turnout due to the ongoing train strike, the atmosphere buzzed with energy.
Volunteers had a much-needed lunch break with sandwiches and steaming cups of tea and coffee. I indulged in a cuppa, replenishing my energy after the enthusiastic conversations. Between encouraging students to participate in our raffle, I took a moment to witness the tutor awards and savour a slice of the Students Association celebration cake.
With the day winding down, it was time to pack up. I swiftly organised my belongings. A chance encounter with Cazz Flowers, VP of Community and a fellow student I had worked with at the London Graduation, brought unexpected luck. She generously offered me a lift back to my hotel, a kind gesture that underscored the supportive spirit of the OU community. It is another blessing in a day filled with meaningful connections and shared enthusiasm.