I brace myself upon entering the shared student kitchen for the first time at uni. I await all kinds of horrendous sights, but above all, the notorious baked beans. But alas, my anxiety is unnecessary, in fact, the whole moment is an anti-climatic disappointment.
Yes, there is the odd unwashed plate here and there but instead of multipack bags of skips, leftover bargain buckets and a fortress of baked beans tins I am met by a range of herbal teas and a fridge full of salad. Have I entered a middle class housewife's territory? Where have all the Vitamin D deficient slobs gone? And then it hits me in true epiphanic fashion - they are a dying breed.
Gone are the days of waking up at 2pm, and emerging from your bed only to cook cheesy pasta and use the toilet. Well, not entirely gone, but it's certainly no longer the routine, more like rare exceptions when the night before is just too much to handle the morning after. Instead, something new is on the rise: the active, healthy, fit student.
Who are they? The new student generation. Where will you find them? Working the treadmill at the gym, cycling to hand in work and crunching on carrot sticks in their rooms. Okay, perhaps a slight exaggeration, and not always entirely applicable, but there has certainly been a change in the water. The old student five-a-day (something along the lines of three beers, a pot noodle and a half priced tub of Ben and Jerry's) has been genuinely replaced by fruit, veg and an assortment of vitamins. My instagram feed is filled with photographic evidence of prized meals with a plethora of proud hashtags: #healthy #fit #diet #salad #gym #beachbod. What happened to #yolo?
Beyond the kitchen, students are also noticeably more active. Those who haven't embraced a university sport are still likely to be found burning some sweat at the gym. My first term at university was spent lounging around on my bed eating crisps, but by the end of the year it was de rigueur to attend the gym three or four times a week. Eyebrows were never raised at the rowers who were up at 6am and despite my spluttering astonishment, my friend brushed aside her London marathon achievement.
So what's changed?
It's hard to fathom why such a concrete, easy way of life is being replaced by one which requires more effort, motivation and time. Despite the odd check-up call from mum pleading that you eat something green and have a shower, life was a breeze. But things have changed in the wider context and students, susceptible beings as they are, have soaked this right up.
Take a look at the bigger picture - all around us things are pointing towards fitness and health. In January we are bombarded with aspiratory calls to turn our lives around and by June the timely bikini bod fears help to crank up the gradually dwindling gym routine. We live in a society in which #thinspiration continually trends and Victoria's Secrets models are worshipped as beacons of the new regime. Programmes such as Supersize Me and The Biggest Loser now torturously pervade our screens and suddenly we can't eat our triple-chocolate-vanilla-whip without feeling a pang of guilt.
Outside of popular culture, a new determined society is forming. The survival-of-the-fittest mentality which has gripped the post-recession climate is starting to adapt our approach to life. As students are delightfully informed that there are no jobs and they will therefore be forever plagued by debt, it's hard not to feel the necessity to not only work harder but to be generally better all round. In the same way that a 2:2 won't cut the mustard, nor will a muffin top. Determination and drive are the new life mottos: more hours in the library and more effort spent on eating well, looking good and living longer.
There are still some fragile remnants of a lifestyle that once was; the hungover caf' Full English will still be a staple part of the morning-after routine, and few can resist a tempting Domino's 2 for 1. But on the whole, it's farewell to the stale smell of studenthood, and a warm welcome to the transformed student stereotype.
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