After a tumultuous start, life here is beginning to settle down. The frantic jockeying for position in the first few weeks is over, and it's no longer acceptable to introduce yourself to random people or shamelessly ask for names. Socially, the beginning of the year was a slow burn for me – I ended up meeting one potentially good friend a day, until I was able to enter the dining hall on my own and always find someone I wanted to sit with. By then the time for meeting new people had suddenly and mysteriously drawn to a close. Everyone is now pretty much stuck with whatever friends they've made, and I'm left with several moderately good mates and countless acquaintances whose names I can't quite remember. Such is life. The first weeks of university would be a fascinating social experiment if I weren't in the middle of it.
I've managed to accumulate an eclectic bunch of friends: floppy-haired guitarists, aspiring novelists, Thatcherites, socialists, drunkards, teetotallers, young earth creationists and heterosexual male High School Musical fans. The downside of this eclecticism is that my friends don't form a coherent group, as they did at my old school. I'm hoping this won't be a problem. My lecturers are all slightly dotty too. I've noticed a few distinct categories: there's the quiet, charismatic type who don't use microphones, the well meaning but clueless type who seem to have their mind on higher things than mere undergrads, and the completely bonkers type who see their immunity from being fired as less of an opportunity than a challenge – and make too many references to their sex lives for comfort. They're a lesson in humanity as much as anything else. Maybe I'll even learn something here.
I'm discovering that it's essays, more than lectures, that define the contours of life. I think I could almost get used to the lurching rhythm of blind panic and frantic effort just before a deadline, followed by the uneasy calm before the next essay is set. It certainly makes life interesting.
Essays are followed by supervisions – hour-long meetings during which, either alone or in pairs, you are forced to discuss and defend your hastily researched essay with someone who's probably written a couple of books on the subject. Gone are the good old days when the only spare time you had to write your essay was during the ad breaks between reruns of Have I Got News For You. You would wince at the resultant B-, file the essay somewhere your parents wouldn't find it and move on. At uni, there aren't any punishments – no detentions or lines or threat of having letters sent home; instead, if your essay is awful, you have to spend an hour explaining it to some eminent academic. I think I preferred it before.
I still genuinely feel I'm getting to grips with being a university student. I know who my friends are (mostly); I know when I need to hand in my essays; I know what grass can be walked on and what not; I know how to sort out the pipe in my room that makes a periodic clunking sound whenever I try to sleep; I've even managed to de-subscribe from the live-action-role-playing-society's mailing list. More to the point, I've managed to acquire one of those oh-so stylish three-quarter-length coats that epitomises that mysterious quality of studentness. I think I've actually made it.