Back to uni: here we go again

It’s that time again. You have that feeling. A potent mixture of: two parts excitement, one part fear, and four parts panic, all topped off with a huge dollop of stress. You had a plan. You intended to read all those books for pleasure from the pile that accumulated during last year’s academic tribulations. You wanted to volunteer somewhere. And most of all, you wanted to be as prepared as possible for the coming year.

Fear not, dear reader. You are not alone. It seems, to me, anyway, that this phenomenon occurs every year. While term is in progress, everyone has one thing on their minds, even if they won’t admit it… 

If you’re the obstinately academic type, you’ll claim to be thriving in the endless deadlines and quickly approaching exams, blinders on, as your friends look at you with wonder and (in some cases) murderous envy. If you’re the type who is vaguely interested in your studies – perhaps you’re one of the academic type’s friends – you’ll think it’s great to see your friends so much again, and say that running from one lecture in a building atop campus down to another at the bottom is great exercise and that you might just read that book for next week’s tutorial. If you’re the type who doesn’t know where your lectures are, or indeed what a lecture is, then you’re probably just happy to be included (when you show up). 

However, pardon my slight digression.  Deep down, the thing on everyone’s minds during this stressful time is as follows: “OhdearGodthatessayI’muptomyeyesinitwhatisthatbookcalledmylegshurtwhendoestermfinishmustgettothelibrarywhywon’tyoudoasIsaylaptophowmuchcaffeineisinthisaaaarrrgggghhhhh.” (Edit for language and/or violence as appropriate, dependent on the individual.)

Consequently, when term is over and summer begins, calmness pervades, and there’s a sense of great relief. The opposite phenomena to that which occurs during term time starts to manifest itself: you begin to miss university: the books, the lectures, the tutorials, the meeting of minds, the new ways of looking at things, new information, new interpretations.

Admittedly, this change is not instantaneous (and, for that academic type I mentioned earlier, it may not happen at all). A few months can pass before this repining for new classes and fresh information begins – unless you’re that person who is never at uni during term (yes, I’m looking at you again) in which case, you probably feel no different. Or perhaps, in a bout of sheer contrariness, you decide to visit outside of term time, when no-one is there (except for, yes, you guessed it, that academic type; perhaps you and the academic type will bump into each other and make friends, maybe help each other out by trading qualities: you become more interested in your studies and the scholarly one learns to relax a little and have fun elsewhere) – and you want to be back at university.  Then before you know it, summer (or whatever semblance of summer we experienced) is over, and you’re back.  Sensing a cycle here?

That cycle can be broken.  By taking the time, during term time, to do what is expected of you: reading the books on your syllabus, attending lectures and tutorials, and broadening your mind with all these wonderful new concepts, theories and ideas that will only further your knowledge and make you even cleverer than you are already.  But also, and this is crucial, by enjoying it.

It’s all well and good in terms of marks for you to read from dusk ‘til dawn in a darkened room alone, to pull all nighters and cram like crazy for an exam you’ll dread in the morning, but it’s not good for you, and will not make you relish your time at university.  Organise your time well: make a timetable and stick to it.  Make sure there is plenty of time for all that reading and lecture attending, essay writing and exam preparation (especially if you have a job or other commitments too), but also slot in time to see people, go places and get away from the textbooks for a while. (Seriously, academic type, I can see you reaching for the books. And you, non-academic type, rolling your eyes. Where’s the vaguely interested one when you need them?)

Try a change of pace and see what wonders it works for you. You only get out of something what you put in, and that works for your studies as well, so don’t sell yourself short.  You’ll feel better, get more done, and hopefully see the marked distinction between ‘in term chaotic stress’ and ‘out of term recovery’ disappear, with all merging into one wonderful year long period of busy, exciting academic and extracurricular pleasure.

By David Rush, picture by Melissa Reid
(Published: Issue One, October 2012)} else {