I only have a matter of days left until the horror of third year is upon me. It seems to be looming over me like a giant cliché of a mountain about as scalable as K2. How am I going to have time to research and write all those essays? What if I don’t get the final mark I want? What if I turn into some sort of crazed robot and get outstanding marks but at the cost of all social interaction and sanity? (Unlikely: when I was a baby I had to be held constantly or I’d scream. Not much has changed. I need a lot of hugs.)
The transition from first to second year was bad enough. First year didn’t count towards my degree, but second year makes up forty percent of my final mark. No more writing essays hours before the deadline. No more stumbling into morning lectures still a little bit drunk. (Well, mostly.) Returning to uni after last summer, everyone seemed concerned that people would notice they now actually cared about their grades. Once, confronted by an enthusiastic first year wanting to know why I was not intending to go out on a student night, I looked shiftily from side to side and muttered “freshers’ flu” in a tone you might use to whisper a password for a secret meeting of your local satanic cult. It wasn’t even during the first term. When it came down to it, I would rather she thought I was an utter weirdo than admit I had seminars the following morning and wanted to make lots of notes so as to get a good grade and thus needed to avoid falling asleep at my desk. Those were the days. By the end of the year though all pretence was gone; I was far more likely to engage unfortunate friends in a drawn-out discussion of revision strategies than to even consider a night out. I don’t need alcohol: I just need eight hours of sleep and a nice set of coloured pens, okay?
I think my third year panic reached a crescendo when I realised I was only doing the set reading over the summer to avoid thinking about my dissertation. My nerves were so great that instead of browsing StumbleUpon or tidying my room I was procrastinating with actual, useful work. People keep telling me what I can only hope are urban myths about previous third years who had completed their dissertation by Christmas, or during the summer, or while they were in primary school. When asked last week if I had any idea what I wanted my dissertation to be about, I froze, panicked – and said ‘tigers’. Tigers. Although, being an English Literature student, I’m actually reasonably confident that I could write about a portrayal of tigers in literature across different cultures or time periods throughout history without raising too many eyebrows, it doesn’t strike me as being a good plan.
But at this rate, maybe I shall. I mean, I don’t have any other ideas. Plus, they say to write about something that you’re passionate about, and I really do like tigers.