10 Truths About University

With the start of University just around the corner, I imagine most soon-to-be Freshers are both excited and nervous by the prospect of escaping family life. Who wouldn’t be? I certainly was. And now that my course has finished and my eighteen years of being a student has come to an end, I thought it would be good to share a few truths about University. Please note these are extremely biased to my own experiences and observations. 

1: Money.
You’ll be so used to having next to no money that the sudden increase in your bank account every few months will make you feel like Bill Gates.
I’ve worked hard today. I’ll treat myself to a TV.
Going drinking again? I’ll buy a bottle of Jager for predrinks.” You’ll spend carelessly, and by the end of the semester you’ll feel poor again. Over the years you’ll become wiser and stingier, or start looking for part-time jobs.

2: Jobs.
University is definitely going to boost your job prospects. Even if it’s just because you’ve moved to a big city with a higher vacancy rate… it’s still technically University that got you there. From what I’ve seen, it’s rare a degree secures you a job. It almost always comes down to experience, but a degree is definitely something you can use to your advantage when bullshitting through interviews.
I am a dedicated individual and can work well to deadlines as is evident by the fact I didn’t fail Uni.

3: Caffeine.

If you didn’t drink coffee or energy drinks before, prepare for caffeine to replace your blood. I’d never liked coffee before my second year, and now I can’t function in the morning without one. Caffeine will get you through the long, panic-stricken nights finishing tomorrow’s coursework. Caffeine is your best friend.

4: Friends.
When you make friends in High School, you think you’ll be friends for life. But that’s not always the case. I only really have one friend from back home that I still talk to. University is where you really make friends for life. They’ll be there to celebrate practically any occasion with you (You got laid! Let’s go drink! You passed last semester! Let’s go drink!) and there to comfort you whenever you need it (You’ve been dumped… let’s go drink. You failed last semester… let’s go drink). It’s strange and emotional when everyone goes their separate ways after the three years are up. 

5: Alcohol.

Shot Tombola

As much as it’s a stereotype for students to go out and get hammered every night of the week, we didn’t do it that often. In fact, I drink a hell of a lot more now that I work in a bar than I did through University. We spent more time in our flat playing Ring of Fire with cheap bottles of Amaretto than we did partying and clubbing. It’s perfectly alright to say no to a night out, and don’t ever feel pressured to drink if you don’t want to.

6: Regret.
Everything you decided not to bother with in first year you’ll regret not doing. Take up rugby? I’ll do it next year. Fancy going to that party? Nah, can’t be arsed. Only when it’s too late and you have more work than you do time will you wish you’d gone for it. Remember, first year doesn’t count towards your final grade, so make the most of it.

7: First Year
First year is a strange concept. In a way it’s like the beginning of High School, only more important. Your results won’t count towards your final grade, but failing them will mean resitting until you either quit or succeed. First year is the sieve that strains the people who shouldn’t be there from those that should. Many of the students you meet in the first lectures you’ll never see them again. Others you’ll wonder how on earth they’re hanging on when all they do is sleep in the back of the lecture hall after a heavy night out. My own course dwindled from about fifteen people to six by third year.

8: Food.

Cottage Pie
Another stereotype of students is that they only eat microwave meals and takeaways. This one is actually mostly true, but I know several students and ex students who can cook rather well; myself included. It’s very handy to know how to cook before going to University. I would have been extremely depressed if I’d been stressing over coursework for hours on end with only Pot Noodles to keep me going.

9: Bachelor of Arts.
If there’s one thing I learnt from my own personal experience it’s that there’s one law to always abide by when studying for a Bachelor of Arts degree: the tutor is always right. Even when they’re wrong. At the end of the day, they’re marking you. Whatever they want you to do, if you want to pass, you do it. On rare occasions you can persuade them to your way of thinking, but more often than not it’s just easier to do as they please.

10: It’s the best damn decision you’ve ever made.
For all it’s ups and downs, for all the early morning lectures where you wished you stayed living off your parents well into your thirties, going to University will be the best decision of your life. By the end of it you may regret doing some things and not doing others, but you’ll have gained a heap of friends, gotten further with your career and learnt how to adult all by yourself. And as clichéd as it sounds, you’ll come out wiser and far more experienced than before. University is a brilliant segway between childhood and adulthood. It’s also a great way of escaping your home town.

So if you didn’t make it to University this year, keep trying. There’s always next year, or the year after. It’s never too late.


First Rifle of the Outback

As part of my dissertation I interviewed friends and acquaintances on objects of sentimental value to them. One of my interviewees, upon discussing a bullet shell from his time in Australia, was particularly difficult to get information out of. So I created an awkward poetic form to express this; a Villanelle crossed with a Haiku. A Vaiku if you will.

I shot the gun;
first rifle of the outback.
The dingo was done.

I picked up that one –
the brass shell on the dirt track.
I shot the gun.

Dingoes kill for fun.
We kill before they attack.
The dingo was done.

Under burning sun
the dingo bled, body slack.
I shot the gun.

Not a chance to run.
He had no time to react;
the dingo was done.

The day had been won.
The dingo’s lifeblood dried black.
I shot the gun,
the dingo was done.

Tabula Rasa

The stylus and the writing tablet;
beautifully crafted, wax on wood,
with thin leather strips to keep the diptych
leaves of Antiquity neat.
And the stylus, carved in bronze, pointed
at one end and flat at the other.
I can imagine them now, out of this glass case
and in the clasped hands
of a young Roman man, scratching out
letters in the grit.
He writes her name, then his confidence wanes
and he scrapes at the wax til it’s smooth again.
He snaps the pad shut.
“No,” he says. “No more.”

The Homicidal Boyfriend Dream

I was in a relationship with someone who terrified me. It was as if I were under a spell, as if I had no choice other than to be with him. One night he left me in his bedsit while he went out on ‘business.’ He stroked my cheek, smiled and left.

I stared around the room, waiting, making sure he didn’t come back. It was a small bedroom. We shared his single bed with a crumpled, faded blue duvet. The walls were bare, clothes hung limply from the chest of drawers and there was various items of junk all over the floor. His computer was switched off, but it didn’t matter. He didn’t trust me with the password anyway. He’d left me in his room for hours, knowing I had nothing to do. I was his prisoner.

I began to search for evidence. I’d been staying with him since my parents had died a few weeks previous. But it was too coincidental, too close to when I’d met him for him to not be involved somehow.

Underneath his bed was a rucksack I hadn’t seen him use in a while. I pulled it out to examine it further. My finger touched a sticky spot, but in the poor lighting of the room I couldn’t see what it was. I grabbed a glass of water from the desk and poured it gently over it. Blood began pouring out of the rucksack and pooled on the cream carpet.

It was my parent’s blood. I could tell by the colour.

Shit. If he came home to find the blood stains, he’d know. He’d know I knew, and I’d be screwed. I set about frantically wiping at the carpet in a vain attempt to scrub it clean. There was no way it’d work. I’d have to get out of there.

I opened the frail white door and walked out into the monotonous corridor, heart thumping. He lived on the top floor and there were no lifts so I began my descent down the cold hard staircase. I reached the halfway point to find there was a troll blocking my path. A nine foot, grey skinned troll with a large club and only a loin cloth covering him. He didn’t see me, so I sneaked into the corridor and headed for the other side of the building.

I reached the stairwell at the other side of the block and was relieved to find no monsters in my path. I continued down the staircase, but there was another troll at the final door.

I was trapped. And this one had seen me. He advanced, and I backed my way up the stairs. I felt a cold hand on my shoulder and I shrieked.

“Going somewhere, my darling?” He purred.

The Shoe Fetish and Demons Dream

The party was in full swing at my workplace when my dad turned up with a shovel. Nah, it was nothing like that. He’d just been doing some gardening… I think. I hope. He asked me to wrap it safely in carrier bags while he went shopping.
We had a new girl starting that night, and she was already giving me evils from across the bar. I mingled for a while, talking to friends and colleagues until my dad returned from his trip.
I asked what he’d bought, and he gestured to the wide variety of shoes arranged neatly in front of him. They were about thirty pairs, all different sizes and in an array of vibrant colours. The tiniest shoes were a baby’s pink jellys. The biggest were effing huge. They were bright blue with basset hounds on the front. The footholes were as big as a head, and the shoes themselves as big as Little Tikes cars.
My dad proceeded to put these shoes on and slide around the room in them, squealing with laughter. As the embarrassed daughter, I slipped into another room.
It so happened the room I found myself in was the VIP area. I walked around like I belonged there, trying not to get too excited by the celebrities. I bumped into a coffee table that Matt Smith just so happened to be lying underneath.
“Hello,” he said.
“Hello?” I replied. “Er…”
“I’m hiding,” he grimaced.
“Not very well… Your legs and head are sticking out.”
“Oh…” he sighed, and slid out from under the table. He was wearing skinny jeans, a white T-shirt and a black waistcoat. His hair was slicked to the side as usual, and he looked pretty damn hot.
“What are you hiding from?” I asked coyly.
He looked away and gestured quickly to the other side of the room. “That woman.”
I glanced at where he meant and saw a girl wearing an eleventh doctor costume, holding a framed photograph of Matt and looking happier than everyone else in the room.
I persuaded the girl that Matt had gone to the toilets, and she thanked me before running off. Matt grinned and I rejoined him. We had a laugh and he was genuinely lovely to talk to. Eventually I thought I’d try my chances.
“Well, I’d say let me know how the crazy fangirl situation goes, but you don’t have my number or Twitter or anything…”
He proceeded to pull a mini tablet out of his pocket, and I mean like keyring sized tablet. He put it on the table in front of me, and expected me to know how to use it. He laughed and took the piss out of me when I struggled to press the tiny buttons.

I’d only just found my way to Twitter when the demon appeared. Nobody noticed him at first – how could they? He was made of black smoke, and he crept into the body of a middle aged man. He touched the shoulder of a younger woman and she in turn touched two other people. Their eyes turned black and they walked towards us as a group.
Smoke emitted from them, the tendrils wrapping around the necks of the party guests and filling their lungs. They’d finally found me. Soon only me, Matt, his pitbull Ferry and two others were alive. So we ran.
We found a room full of wardrobes and each hid in one. I heard the demons come in, heard the creak of the floorboards and opening of doors.
After an agonising silence I cracked my door open slightly. A man was stood outside, waiting for me to come out. I wasn’t sure if he was one of us or one of them.
That was when he grinned and smoke billowed from his open mouth. I ran, and everyone followed. We’d made it to the rooftops when the smoke caught up with us. A pointed black finger reached out for my heart, but Ferry leaped in front of it, barking like mad. The smoke touched him and he thudded to the ground. We watched as the life faded out of him, the dying light of the sun making his fur shine a bright orange. Matt looked at me.
Well shit. Goodbye to any chance of Mr. Smith calling me back.