If you’re a first year, don’t you dare whinge about university work. Don’t tell me about that terrifying multiple-choice exam you have on lecture material alone, or a paltry 1,500-word essay, or your initial discomfort when encountering referencing issues. By all means, if you’re homesick, or ill, or you can’t cook for love nor money and you’ve been living off toast for three weeks, you’ll have my sympathy. But the minute you complain to me about deadlines, you’re dead to me.
We all know that there’s a jump between first and second year – it’s the culture shock that comes with knowing that every assignment you complete has an impact on the class of degree that you walk out of University with.
"By all means, if you’re homesick, or ill, or you can’t cook for love nor money and you’ve been living off toast for three weeks, you’ll have my sympathy. But the minute you complain to me about deadlines, you’re dead to me"
And then third year is its own kind of hell, trust me. It’s a haze of applying to graduate jobs and exams, assessed hand-ins and presentations and taking part in enough extra-curricular activity to make you look fabulous to all those prospective employers. Woe betides you if you have a part-time job, on top of everything else. You barely have enough time to ring your mum for a minute and let her know that you’re still alive, let alone attempt a social life.
When in the med school library at the beginning of term, I had an…altercation with a first year student who wanted the same textbook as me. Once I has ascertained that she didn’t need the latest edition of Molecular Physiology half as much (nay, not even a third as much) as I did, I politely told her to fuck off.
‘What are you even doing in the library?’ I wanted to yell at her. ‘You’re in first year! Shut up and go day-drinking with your flatmates whilst you still can! Stop fighting with a third year over a textbook you won’t need for at least two semesters and get a treble down you!’
I remember when I was a naïve and (sort of) innocent fresher. The world was my bloody oyster. I could go out five nights a week and rock up to lectures at 9am, only to sleep through them, no bother.
"‘What are you even doing in the library?’ I wanted to yell at her. ‘You’re in first year! Shut up and go day-drinking with your flatmates whilst you still can!"
I think wistfully of the days without extra reading, when ‘essential’ reading was anything but. The days before scientific journal articles became part of my daily routine. Before essays and exams that took up an entire afternoon.
First year was absolute bliss.
I remember when I could cast a cursory glance over my lecture notes (those that I bothered writing up) and come out of an exam, confident in the knowledge that I’d done passably well. I once showed up to an exam on my first (and painfully unpleasant) hangover, and spent the entirety of it rocking back and forth, trying not to throw up. But did I fail? Of course not.
So to all those first years who think they have it bad – you really don’t. Go out instead.
After all, everyone knows that first year doesn’t count.