Today marks the start of a new semester. If you’re anything like me, you would have set out with the very best intentions – new textbooks, new stationary, new planners; but as you map out what is due and when, there’s always that overwhelming feeling that comes with the list of deadlines that mount before you. You will question whether or not you’ve taken on too much before you take a deep breath and promise yourself that this semester will be different.
If you’ve done this before you’ll know that the first weeks of a university semester are a student’s favourite. You’re catching up with students you’ve not seen since last semester, you’re on top of your lectures, there’s a sneaky hour or two to head to the beach and heck, you’ve even started researching your assignments! You’re in control baby and you give yourself a pat on the back – you’ve mastered this uni business and woo – it’s about time!
Around week 4 you head outdoors for some fresh air still relishing in the “balance” you’ve created for yourself. Life is still “dandy” however you can’t help but notice dark clouds on the horizon. You get back to your desk and you flick through your diary only to realise those mid-semester deadlines are looming. Yikes, it’s time to get cracking! You convince yourself that creating a cover and contents page is a decent enough effort for today and you go to bed knowing that when you wake, it’s time to batten down the hatches. The mid-semester storm is looming.
The weeks of mid-semester deadlines washes over you in a whirlwind of panic, struggle and desperation. You don’t know how you got through it, but you did. As soon as the last assessment is done, you take a deep breath and pull your battered self together. Thank goodness, the mid-semester break is here.
For many uni students, the mid-semester break is like an oasis in the middle of the desert, full of so many promises and possibilities. In one week there’s time to get your life back on track, a time for rest and relaxation, there’s even a gym where your pre-university body awaits! But for one reason or another, after you have cleaned your desk and caught up on Netflix, that mid-semester break has all but disappeared and in a blink of an eye, you’ve found yourself staring down the barrel of round two – the last hoorah before exams.
The semester starts back and no matter what anyone says, there is no avoiding the effects of study trickling into your everyday life. There is no separation, you are all or nothing. You work your butt off but you don’t get paid, the house is a mess, the washing is mounting, you’ve eaten your fair share of grab ‘n’ go snacks and it’s avocado on toast again for dinner. During the peak of it all you notice that your sugar cravings rival a 10 year old at a birthday party and caffeine, well, where would you be without it? Maybe you scroll through Instagram 10,000 times a day, because you’re constantly thinking that there’s got to be something better than this? You dream about your life after exams and you envy those who appear to have that elusive “balance”. At a last ditch attempt to keep your sanity, you text your fellow classmates and find comfort knowing that they are also locked away from the world, reluctantly continuing there own committed relationship with Microsoft Word. You push on.
I’m not sure why but somewhere near the end of semester, there is always a moment of reflection followed by a couple of moments (maybe more) of procrastination. Maybe you shift in your chair and notice your jeans are a little tighter and that you should probably lay off the chocolate? This then leads you to google healthy chocolate alternatives and waste another 45 minutes. On this quest, you are further distracted by cat videos or student memes and you tag your entire graduating class. Cut me some slack, you think to yourself, “these memes bring some light to my dark assignment days”, before you make yourself ANOTHER cup of tea and get back to it. You’re finally back in your zone and Apple subtly reminds you that it’s been 243 days since your last computer back-up (AKA “my life is one disorganised mess”) notification. This gentle reminder continues for another week before the karmic rainbow “wheel of death” rears it’s ugly head and you feel your heart drop. Your computer shuts down, you go into panic and the 10 seconds it takes to get your computer back up and running feels like HOURS.
Somewhere in the middle of semester you check in with some “outside” friends and family. When people ask you what you’ve been up to, all you can say is “uni and work”. Because that’s literally it. You rack your brain for value ads, but there’s nothing. They pause, with someone kind of emptiness, before they ask the inevitable question “How long have you got left?”. You stare blankly at them and take a deep breath hoping to mask the internal screams. Whether you’re a part-timer or a full-timer, in your first semester or your last, no matter how long or how short it is, it’s an uphill battle they’ll never understand. You say “ages” and laugh, before pouring yourself another glass of wine.
As the end of semester approaches, there’s always those lectures you’ve missed with exam tips and the workshop you opted out of because you were exhausted, but it ended up being life-changing for all that went. Throw in the compulsory family celebrations, sports carnivals, assemblies, birthdays and/or work functions which fall conveniently on your assignment due dates (insert eye roll) and you’ve pretty much summed up every student’s typical semester. I won’t lie, there are days when you rest your head in your hands and question whether or not it’s all worth it? BUT the elated feelings associated with hitting the assignment “submit” button spurs you on.
If you’ve read this far, I’m guessing you can relate in some way or you know someone who can. Either that or you’re back at uni and looking for an assignment distraction (I hear you and you’re welcome ;)). Whilst it all seems a tad “doom and gloom”, I want you to know that I’ve been there. I’ve been through all of the above again and again and YOU WILL GET THROUGH THIS. There will be a time that you look back on this chaos and you will be amazed by your strength and resilience. The late nights will make you laugh, the avocado on toast for dinner will be subbed for far more evolved recipes, the computer will be backed up, you will drink MUCH less tea and the time you spent engaging with like minded students in the corridors and classrooms will be sorely missed. It’s an incredible time of your life, for so many reasons you just can’t see yet. Be patient, be present and from one ex-student to another, back up your computer 🙂
If you’re the partner or family member of a student in the midst of the above chaos, know that they didn’t choose this life. They chose the end goal and in the process, unknowingly committed to making the above sacrifices that only those who have studied, will ever truly understand. Don’t worry, they love you; they miss you and look forward to popping a bottle of champagne once they hold that goddamn expensive piece of paper in their hand. Without you and your support they couldn’t do this.