“It started with a car” and ended in the Abbey!

“…I came to uni to learn from lectures but I gained life skills I’ll keep forever…”

So many people who joined our celebrations in the Abbey on 25th October have commented about Claire Guest’s spoken word performance, “It started with a car.”

Claire, a Chemical Engineering student, wrote her piece especially for our 50th anniversary. Produced with the support of a local award winning performance poet, it describes her journey to begin student life and the impact that studying at Bath has made on her.

We decided to share Claire’s piece in full so that everyone has the chance to enjoy it. Do get in touch if you’ve got your own memories about uni life to share!

It started with a car.


“It didn’t feel real

until my house was out of sight.

I’d have thought the fact would have sunk in long before that,

but no.

Not until I was in the back seat,

my luggage crammed around me,

clutching the teddy bear I couldn’t bear to leave behind,

my neck stretched back for one last glance




One part of my mind was busy tracing the other places I was leaving,

the streets I’d walked daily that I wouldn’t be seeing for a while.

Meanwhile the other half was shouting

“abandon car- you’re not ready for this.”

Not ready to go away

and come back different.

Not ready to come back

and find what’s changed.


The drive from Birmingham to Bath is 110 miles,

two and a half hours that flew by in a kind of limbo,

like the moment of flight when diving off a cliff,

but before the fall into this abyss,

I’d neglected to check there was even sea beneath me to soften the blow.


Pulling onto campus, the University of Bath sign seemed imposing,

seemed to mark the start of the unknown,

but before I could get too tied up in nerves, I heard a familiar tone.

The welcome tent was blasting out the B52s, “Love Shack”.

The rest of the day was a rushed jumble, but this still stands out.

To me, it sounded like “Hey, make yourself at home”,

taking the innuendo out of the lyrics,

this is just a little place to make new friends,

a little place for big beginnings.


For me, that day is a marker

I look back on to see how far I’ve come.

A lot of my worries seem silly now.

Like I didn’t need

those minutely detailed recipes

of how to cook pasta,

or a jacket potato,

because Google knows everything.

And despite my fears, I was not the flat’s worst cook.

No, that was Sam, who put

sausages in the grill and shut the door.

“They only caught fire a little bit”

was apparently no great comfort

to the entirety of Solsbury Court

when rain was streaming from the sky

and it was pretty much her fault they were outside.


If I had known what was coming,

I would have worried more about the work.

Because you have to work. Hard.

I didn’t think it would be easy

but the target had always been getting in.

That was the bar to reach,

never realising I was taking part in hurdles.

Not high jump.

Uni takes endurance,

three eight-month marathons

of labs and coursework, exams and reports,

and sometimes it felt like the deadlines all came in one week,

which led to late night library sessions fuelled by caffeine,

and ‘till it happened, I didn’t realise just how much I needed

that friend to say stop.


Take a break.

It’ll make sense in the morning,

for now,

let’s just chill by the lake.

This can wait ‘till tomorrow.


And tomorrow always held the promise of possibilities.

Back in that car, I hadn’t dreamed of half the chances I’ve had,

or the things I’ve done.


I know the girl I was then wouldn’t have taken them all

with mind still outstretched, searching for more.


She would have been too scared of getting lost

to travel cross country alone,

would have missed out on exploring unknown cities.


She would never have thought she could spend four months

and write fifty pages

on molecular movements

and enjoy every moment.


And after one session of Bollywood dance,

she definitely wouldn’t have gone back.

she was far too bad at it.

She didn’t realise

you don’t have to strive to be the best

to have fun-

I learnt otherwise.

Who cares if I’m out of time,

trying to remember what came after the side-to-side-jumpy-move.

Jazz hands, right?

When in doubt, jazz hands.

If nothing else, it made my friends laugh.


This started with a car,

making its way to campus

or maybe with the post,

and a letter of acceptance

or maybe with a hope,

of moving on to something different,

or maybe it’s just a part,

of always making progress.

I came to uni to learn from lectures,

but I’ve gained life skills I’ll keep forever,

and friends I can’t forget.

I was scared of uni changing me,

but it’s changed me for the better.”


©Claire Guest 2016