Reunited: 15 minutes of fame can go a long way

July 2, 2004

Jon Tickle studied physics at Leicester University in 1993-96 then found micro-celebrity on reality TV

I used to play hockey for the university and still visit regularly - ostensibly to play the current university sides, but really to catch up with old friends and sample the nightlife.

On Friday nights at the student union, it used to be the student night "Mega" - now called "Mad fer it". A lot of the decor has changed - it has gone a lot more fluffy, with lights on the pillars and drapes on the ceiling. But the music is largely the same - you are going to get YMCA at some point in the evening, although there is also some good rock and indie pop, too. And while the skirts are much, much shorter and I don't seem to remember the women being quite so attractive, the same burger van still loiters outside the student union at 2am.

The last time I went back to Leicester I had a few of the old boys and girls with me, but I probably spent only about a quarter of an hour in their company. I wasn't exactly mobbed, but a lot of people seemed to recognise me.

The attention is always very positive, although at Leicester that Friday night I was talking to a large group of girls and I got hit on the back of the head by some oik. When I was a student I did not attract the same degree of interest, although you would have frequently found me doing amazing moves on the dance floor. I have never had any problems being the centre of attention.

Leicester is a cosmopolitan place and that hasn't changed at all; there are all sorts of people from all ethnic origins and income groups. But the campus has grown since I graduated in 1996, and the university is undergoing a period of major investment. As well as its new Space Research Centre, it will soon have a new medical science building and a library extension.

It is interesting that Leicester has secured this investment. I was on the staff-student liaison committee and so was party to sensitive information about student numbers, and these were giving a lot of concern in 1995-96. I was seeing graphs suggesting that if the current rate of decline continued they would not have anyone doing physics by 2005. Clearly, that hasn't happened.

I was not the best student in the world. I went to university to find things out - it was never in my scheme of things to regurgitate it for an exam. But I look back on my time there with a tremendous amount of fondness. I cannot overestimate how it changed me as a person - my ability to communicate and interact with people leapt in those days, largely, I believe, because of Leicester's proximity to the town centre, the fact that it is very small and its strong sense of community.

At university I learnt to set my own goals and realise them. If I didn't have that attitude I wouldn't have got through living in the Big Brother house. Also, I wouldn't have gone into the house if I hadn't trusted my university friends. None of them sold me out for a quick buck, and the community of friends I made there is still very important to me.

Jon Tickle, a contestant on the Channel 4 game show Big Brother last year, is data strategy manager for Centrica Business Services in Staines.

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