The next generation at Birmingham

Alumna Louise Barnes and her daughter India

Moving to university to start a degree is not only a life-changing experience for students, but also for their immediate family.

After raising their child for 18 years, parents then deliver them to their halls of residence or other accommodation and then say goodbye, usually without any face to face contact for several months.

For alumna Louise Barnes (BCom Business Studies with French, 1986) seeing her own daughter India depart to begin her studies at Birmingham made her realise how much she valued regular contact with her family.

Louise, who has gone on to a highly successful career in retail and is currently CEO of Crew Clothing, said: ‘I had been at boarding school since I was 10 so university life felt like an extension of that. My Dad dropped me off and I sorted myself out from there.

‘But being on the receiving end was completely different. I felt retrospectively bad about never contacting my parents during my degree and really began to appreciate what they had done for me. It’s certainly much easier these days – India can Facetime or Skype me at any point, and often does.’

Louise put no pressure on India to apply to Birmingham and said: ‘I simply wanted her to go somewhere she would feel comfortable. Coming from London, there are many places that can feel very quiet and empty by comparison. Birmingham combines campus life with a city location.’

India added: ‘Birmingham has a good reputation and I definitely wanted people to feel my degree came from a strong institution. I also wanted to go to a campus-based university and know that I was living near my friends, as well as be somewhere that would be a pleasant place to live. The campus and the Vale have both lived up to expectations.

‘But more important was that the people I met when I visited were all very nice, warm and welcoming. I’m naturally quite nervous and I wasn’t sure what to expect leading up to my arrival for Welcome Week.’

Being able to introduce herself to her future flatmates through a Facebook group before term started helped ensure India had made some friends ahead of her arrival on campus.

As for her course, having become used to plenty of one-to-one teaching during her A-levels, India was conscious that the learning process would be very different at Birmingham.

‘It took me some time to understand the principle of doing some reading ahead of a lecture,’ she added. ‘One of the main lessons I’ve taken from my first year is how important it is to attend all of your lectures. Looking through slides on Canvas is no substitute for attending the lecture in person.’

As for staying in touch with her parents, India claimed it was never in question: ‘I’m a homebody – I call Mum all the time!’