"It was the best of times; it was the worst of times." I can't remember who it was that said that, but it seems fitting now. A torrid few days of past-midnight finished in Uni, then one final up-til-5am before getting up at 8.30am to hand it all in the same morning. Not a degree that has ever really been keen to go quietly, naturally the CD-writing didn't work first time round, and it was stress stress stress (stupidly tired, hungry and armed with a pair of scissors while shakily cutting out my final piece of work) til about 11:30am before a 12pm deadline.
That was, however, it. A week that had seen me watch ITV quizcall til the early hours, order a Domino's pizza to Weymouth House and go without a much needed food shop was over (the two rather obviously linked), and with it, three years of University, an entire degree, the end of life marshalled by education. It really was, in a way, the first day of the rest of our lives.
The relief at getting that final work in was replaced almost instantly with a feeling of not knowing how to feel, apart from tired, still. The warm realisation that there went the final piece of coursework I'm ever likely to do was balanced by the shock that the place that had been the centre of my life for three whole years was going to simply send me out into the world without so much as a tender goodbye, barely even a mention. Meanwhile, the prospect of a glorious summer of freedom ahead filled with fun times, fantastic friendships and experiences that only a cycle of time spent at University can create was tempered by the nagging reminder that, in the long term, things were certainly going to change when the sun goes down. Yes, no more Uni work; instead, the five day-a-week 9-5. The pauper's life of living off the student loan is replaced by having to pay off the student loan. Would you rather be meeting deadlines or targets? Can I risk going out tonight, or just start living for the weekend?
There is no way in words or pictures to sum up the last three years of my life sufficiently. Picutres: I'd need thousands from digital cameras that have probably been broken numerous times and photo albums that existed only on someone's old laptop. Words: I could write a dissertation-length narrative describing everything about University. Every single night out, ever. Getting tea in the break in Research Methods. The open top buses to Uni in summer. Friday afternoon lectures. When Elements used to be good. Literally, something worth talking about happens every week while you're at Uni, and the habits that you grow into don't become boring, they become lovingly kept up, looked forward to. The same old places hold new experiences. The great times are prolonged until the dark times can no longer be avoided, but are instead managed and got through by the promise of further great times on the other side. To the Uni, I'm just a name or a number, either 99109116 or bournemouth/d1163660, class of '04, but to me, the Uni and the three years I've spent here has and have been literally life-changing.
They say at the beginning of your degree that starting University is the biggest shift in your life. What they forget to add is "...until you finish". Throughout Uni, there's always been the 'next' thing; the next essay, that presentation, minor exams, second year, longer essays, the placement to sort, final year, the dissertation, more essays, revision. It's only now that the conveyor belt of University deadlines and landmarks has given way to a gaping chasm, called What Now? As one door closes, another opens, but it will be a few long weeks yet before I'm ready to step into the light.