Last week I sat my final undergraduate exam ever. It was a Wednesday morning one, at 9.30am. The knowledge (and of course, the wonderful feeling that that knowledge provides) that I will never have to get up at 6am to be at an exam centre for 7am (yes, and?) is quite liberating, even more so when you realise that your workload is slowly trickling down, little by little, until the last essay is handed up or the last exam is completed. A day after that exam was finished, someone reminded me that I was ‘nearly a graduand’. A graduand! That’s mad Ted. Anyway, that thought is quite hard to shake, especially more so since (as of next year anyway) I won’t be remaining in Galway for postgraduate study. So it’s caused me to look back at this year a bit (not the entire four years, we’d be here all night), and the dos and don’ts. Final year is demanding at best, but we’re all still here… well, what’s left of us anyway. I’m missing a limb somewhere.
1. Accept the fact that you may not have a life this year, or the life you had in previous years at college. Rehearse the following: ‘I can’t, I’ve got work / reading to do for English / two History essays to write for Monday / etc’. Yes, your friends from the years below may have some degree of freedom and you may envy them, but suck it up, go to the library, and finish reading your copy of Belinda. Which is very long and which you need to read for next Tuesday. It is a good book, I promise.
2. Pretty ‘duhnoduh’, but actually go to your lectures and tutorials. I’m serious. I mean, where else are you going to learn about demonic lesbians or Mick Jagger in drag?
3. Sort out your postgrad stuff early. I mean start-in-September early. Don’t be like the rest of us and leave it till later. If you want to do a MA in Kyle MacLachlan Studies at the University of PAC-MAN next year, get your personal statements, transcripts, references, etc. in gear as soon as you can. Talk to the lecturers Who Actually Like You (would you believe it, they are actually human beings. No shit!) as they will actually try to help you across the myriad path. It helps if one of your references is Kyle MacLachlan himself, so I hear.
4. At some stage in the year, you will have to do some form of a thesis or dissertation for one or two of your subjects. Sometimes it’s obligatory, sometimes it’s not. And of course, you will wonder whether your topic is very limited in terms of interest. You will enter into a phase of wondering whether people really want to hear about the implications of Mark Rylance playing two characters at the same time on the Globe stage in 2001. Not so — headless corpses and gods descending down on golden eagles always seem to hold some appeal with people. When you can explain the plot of Cymbeline (albeit with many digressions) to a LSE graduate student on a plane from Newark to Heathrow without once referring to the diagram you drew up for yourself at the start of the semester because you yourself couldn’t remember all of it, you may be on to something. The lesson is: believe in yourself?
5. Above all things, keep your head. This year is going to be one of the most busiest and stressful years of your life, but you will get through it. Just put in the work, and at least get through first semester (trust me, that’s the hardest part). Besides, Smokey’s is always there just in case you need the damn fine coffee.
Anything I’ve possibly missed out? (in before the ubiquitous ‘Do as I say, not as I do’, that is.)