Nearing the end: January is the beginning of the end for third years, but is that so bad?


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The Independent Online

They say that in relationships there come several itching points. These are moot: could be two years or five; some even say 18 months. If I’m in a relationship with university – heartbreak, check; crying, check – then we’ve reached one of these hurdles. And the cut-off is not a year or even two, it’s in weeks. Let me introduce the 12-week itch.

It doesn’t apply to everyone, but for those without final exams – Queen Mary English department, I’m looking at you – January signals the beginning of the end for third years. And this particular niggle is itching the wrong way. It’s not a point at which you celebrate a marathon relationship, but a countdown. Like a child anticipating Christmas, the itch is up on a calendar in my room. It has a place next to the week-by-week printed reading checklists, gym opening times and essay timetables, which are blue-tacked to my bookcase to scare me. But this one is a real scaremonger, for I have only 12 weeks of taught study left in my life. Ever.

My friends shush me any time the number is mentioned. It’s like the lead role in "the number after"; the Voldemort of the nearing-graduation panic. Peers try and convince me that I’ll stay on and do a Masters, biding me some more time in classrooms, but I am stoic. 12 weeks to go and it’ll all be over. No more homework, no more seminars, no more lectures. My formal education is on its last legs and there’s nothing I can do about it.

As a fresher, January 2014 was far beyond the horizon. So much had to be packed into the in between time. There were people to meet, books to read (and pretend to read), houses to move in and out of.

Now the itch has reared its ugly head, though, I’d be lying if I said I was sad. The idea that soon I’ll be writing my final academic essay is appealing, but the consequence of that, the real world whose automatic doors keep swinging open and then shut? Not so much.

Panic is the prevailing emotion. The reality is that those 12 weeks before the Easter holidays and then the black hole that is the exam term – those useless paid-for nonsense in which tutors become unreachable – are the final mile. The big 12 represent the last petals of knowledge distributed by staff in a formal environment. It is really terribly sick-making.

Those worrisome weeks in the Essay Cave mean the writing of many more words – in excess of 20,000 for me – unassisted. The feeling of finishing finals en masse, leaving a slightly smelly exam centre and going off to the pub because it’s finally over is eradicated by a strange coursework system of no exams. Though 14 May, D(issertation) Day signals the real end of the end, it’ll go off with a flop and less of a bang. A flop back into bed to recoup brain cells.

A wise Grown Up told me this week to make the most of these 12 weeks.

"I know, I’ve got so much work to do," I replied, hastily and in autopilot.

"No no", she said. ‘You need to have some fun. You’ve got 12 weeks left to be a student, use them wisely."

Guess we’d better get on with it.