Today I had my last lecture until midway through June, and while it feels nice to wake up before 8am for a little while, the celebration about study leave was a lot less than what it was when I was in sixth form. Perhaps it is because university has seemed a lot less stressful, workwise, than the GCSE and A-level exams I did from the age of 16-18.
For me I always remember the last half of high school being jam-packed with pressure. Every lesson I got the lecture about how these grades were the only thing that would ever get me anywhere. Apparently if you want to work in McDonalds you still need qualifications! I was told countless times about the success stories of people going to Cambridge and getting 5 A*’s at A-level yet still found time to study to write extra essays for competitions, start a debate club and be a leading player in some sport activities. School made us feel like if we weren’t like this person we would be homeless and jobless. No pressure then. I remember A-levels seemed incredibly hard and daunting as the exam dates approached and walking to the building with pen in hand felt like a prison sentence. There may as well have been a guard shouting “dead man walking” as we approached the hall, a long excruciating death drawn out until we got our results. Somehow I managed to get in, someone stopped my punishment.
As I said, things seem a lot stressful. My lecturer in an Augustan Rome module told me I never even had to study the whole topic, just pick two parts on the period and focus on them, as a choice of twelve essay questions means there’ll be something I can answer. My lecturer in my Archaeology modules told me that half of the exam (in three modules of the six) were going to be multiple choice and all we required was a basic knowledge and a bit of common sense. The question may as well have been “Who lived in Rome a) Romans b) Polar Bears c) Aliens” since the practice tests were so simple. And my Latin, which is the one I had been panicking about for the entire year seems simple. Having looked at practice translations it is just the same as GCSE. Sure I got a D at GCSE, but a D is far more than the pass grade at First Year standards here. All it seems to require is a basic knowledge of the grammar- in one of the practices the last sentence literally was “and then he died”- and a basic knowledge of Ancient History. Regarding the fact that I have been interested in the ancients since the age of six suggests that I have it down pat.
Of course I will still be studying, and making sure everything is remembered correctly, but for once I’m not too stressed. The whole place seemed relaxed, which is why it now seems boring to take time off from lectures, especially when I’m going to spend most of the time in my room reading a Mary Beard book I have been meaning to open and re-reading Paul Cartledge (these people are the saints of classical civilisation and ancient history). Things are looking up. Things are also looking up because I am going to the estate agent in the next couple of days to enquire about a room available for rent at a price even a basic student loan can afford. Things are on track. I am no longer a dead man walking.