A South Westerner’s Guide to Being a Student In Sheffield
You’re not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy…
1. Leaving the South.
You’ve decided to leave the South and head North to Sheffield. You’ve obviously a ridiculous but very real integrated mob-mentality that anywhere past Bristol is North. You’re curious and excited to go to that North, innit. The pasty magnet you were assigned at birth goes haywire, splutters, and finally explodes as you pass Gloucester. “Aright, burd?” You tentatively whisper to the nice lady at a service station somewhere in the West Midlands, begging for the rough Janner melody of a “Yer, u?” in response. You return to the car with a pie and not a pasty.
Top Tip: Ensure you’ve packed all of your jumpers and all of those fluffy bed socks you keep getting for Christmas. There was a reason you subliminally hoarded them – this is it. Winter is coming. Limit shock value now.
Biggest Risk: None yet. You’ve got this, ya Janner.
2. Getting over the hills.
Congratulations, you’ve officially made it to Sheffield! But you’ve come from a place that is relatively flat, or at least flatter than the damn Himalayas you find yourself in now. The myriad of steepness before you at every turn consternates your body like a punch to the face (or, more accurately, your lungs, legs, and life all at once.) It’s a literal uphill struggle to Tesco for a Henry Weston and a Ginsters. You curse the law of gravity, and curse your own lack of fitness more. Self-loathing ensues.
Top Tip: Quit smoking immediately. Remember that what goes up must come down, and the view on the way down is prettttttty fantastic. The Peak District being on your doorstep is worth it, I promise. You no longer need to pretend you do exercise.
Biggest Risks: The potential for permanent bodily tilt syndrome and a particularly icy, slippery winter.
3. The pubs.
Okay, so growing up in the soggy bottom corner of England where the local pastime is hydrating thyself and where people cry cider does actually prepare you for the notorious pub culture in Sheffield. If you’re not having an asthma attack from the cross-country trek to the pub, your ability to neck 568.261 millilitres of Cornwall’s finest will keep your head bobbing above water.
Top Tip: Sample as many watering holes as possible and don’t be afraid to branch out. The selection of tasty, locally-brewed cervezas is vast, my friend, and the staff are knowledgeable.
Biggest Risk: Thinking you’ve got the mettle to tackle the 7.2%-er from the Craft Ale Specials Board and waking up the next morning smothered head-to-toe in gravy with a memory that’s as blank as your expression was from 10.30pm onward. You’ll make no friends this way.
4. The vintage shops.
You’re from the South so you’ve arrived in Sheffield with ’proficient charity shop shopper’ listed under ‘Key Skills’ on your CV, just below ‘Reet Bey’. You’ve carefully honed your rail-frisking dexterity over the years by elbowing Janner grannies over turtleneck jumpers and double-breasted wool coats two-sizes too big on the Charity Shop Strip at home. You’ve really lucked out here. Sheffield has more independent shops, stalls, and ‘weigh and pays’ than you have turtlenecks (possibly). Vintage clothing desires you never knew you had will be uncorked. Have fun and relax – there’s no need to fight here as there are spoils a’plenty, me lovers.
Top Tip: Go hard on the knitwear like sheep have become alopecians and avoid the faux waterproof, ex-parachute-esque jackets like foot-and-mouth.
Biggest Risk: Coming out of a shop £50 quid lighter, looking like you’ve been dressed by Bridget Jones’ mum.
5. Making friends with Northerners.
Northerners are some of the friendliest people in the solar system, up there with the Welsh and the Weasleys, and it won’t be a hot minute before you’ve made BFFs. Whether it’s 4am in the smoking area of the notorious and sticky West Street Live, or sippin’ on a cocktail at Gatsby’s, the easy approach and warm reception from Northerners is a welcome treat from the fumbling exchanges and awkward eye-contact that govern interaction in the South… East (a harsh truth to bear, my Southern compadres.)
Top Tip: Cast aside that irrational Southern stranger-danger complex, invoke the Northern way and commence integration with the nation. Take advantage of their wealth of knowledge on important issues. Which pub does the best quiz? Where’s Sean Bean’s mum’s chip shop?
Biggest Risk: The potential for assuming the role of local Crazy when you return to the dark depths of where you came from for Christmas and actually acknowledge strangers. You’re all the more rich for it though.
6. The pies (and the mash and the gravy).
You’re two hundred and twenty two miles away from an Oggy Oggy. You’re of the firm belief that a Greggs slice is a cheap whore against a Real Cornish. What the hell are you doing in Sheffield? Fear not, me lover (you’re in the North now, stop being so soft), and remember that you’re now engulfed in the outcome of another baking revolution, that of the pie. A Northern staple, a glorious feat of pastry in its own right. You’ve got time for that. You wave farewell to the pasty, for now, as you leap on the bandwagon, throwing caution to the wind. The rest is gravy-filled history, with a side of mash and mushy peas.
Top Tip: The Notty (Nottingham House) do a stand-up pie and trimmings combo deal, with fillings ranging from your more traditional steak and ale to butternut squash that won’t break the bank. FYI: There are still some bakeries which sell pasties should you require a crimped, and not lidded, pastry pick-me-up.
Biggest Risk: Forgetting about the pasty altogether. Get your mum to send you a gilt-framed picture to display by your bedside.
7. Dealing with being really far away from the sea.
For all its shortcomings, you’re never far from the sea in the South West. The dampest part of the UK proudly boasts the stunning Devon and Cornwall coastline, with sound reason. Your ultimate chill is grabbing fish and chips and a takeaway tea, and sitting on a soggy rock on the blustery seafront whilst watching the dramatic waves roll by. There’s nothing like it, it’s just bloody bliss, innit? Unfortunately, your nearest saltwater source is now a cool 62.2 miles away, as the crow flies.
Top Tip: Many places in the Peak District are easily accessible with regular busses from the Sheffield interchange. Join a walking club so you a. Don’t end up a missing person and b. Can make more Northern friends.
Biggest Risk: Experiencing auditory hallucinations as you try to adjust to the fact that unnaturally aggressive seagulls intent on maiming anyone attempting alfresco dining don’t exist up here.
8. The live music.
Sheffield is the birthplace of Pulp, the Arctic Monkeys… need I go on? Sheffield boasts a vast array of live music opportunities where performers expound genres ranging from upcoming rock bands to banjo quartets spearheaded by your grandad. The excellent and plenty live music venues spit in the face of the dying independent music scene down South, which has become overrun with wannabe House DJs and fifteen year-olds in Adidas crop tops.
Top Tip: End the night with cheesy chips and gravy, and pat yourself on the back. You’re officially integrated.
Biggest Risk: Hearing more covers of ‘Fluorescent Adolescent’ than is considered healthy for the human brain.