College. There’s just nothing quite like it. You’re probably never going to have another four or so years with the same liberation, the same shoulder-shrug attitude to life. Eating cold pizza, passing out on your friend’s couch, forgetting arguably most of what you went there to learn. Ya….college….definitely just like the movies.
I’ve decided to write this blog to continue pumping the vein of my recent content. Why? Well, partly because I have the luxury/benefit/fear of being on the other side, staring back at my undergrad with an unwelcome hindsight. And if I’ve learned anything from my time on the gridiron, it’s that at first, most people really don’t know what they’re doing, then they think they know what they’re doing, then a year further on they wake up six weeks late to a lecture in someone else’s jeans and finally, they admit to themselves.
In college, nobody knows what they’re doing.
Perhaps the whole thing would run a lot smoother if we didn’t have so many damn preconceptions. Movies, television, friends. They all sell us a different college experience, most of them only half-shadows of the reality. But not all half-shadows are made the same; some fake news just sells better than others.
Here are the top 10 things I wish I’d never been told about college.
1. SUSI, be grand
This of course only applies to the Irish experience, but every country shares in the misery, the sad realisation that college, in fact, costs 1 x arm and 1 x leg.
You’d be forgiven for thinking you could do it all on the cheap. “Student Discount,” they said, waving fliers and free pens and a half-box of caramel Freddos. But in a world where that same chocolate now requires a tracker mortgage, you just can’t do college on a dime anymore.
Outside of the obvious costs of fees, accommodation, travel and your course itself, the day-to-day expenses are what really grab you, stab you repeatedly in the stomach and mutter “For the Watch” under their breath (seriously, if you don’t want Game of Thrones spoilers, get on out of here!) A cup of coffee might cost you a kidney, a lunch out could do you for a heart, and a night out?
Have you got, like, a twin?
2. Everything from the course is relevant
If working a job in your relevant field during your degree does anything, it’s to remind you that, career-dependent, very little if any of your theory might be relevant. Most students quickly realise that literally no future employer ever is going to swing round the door of their office and say, “Hey Mike, can I get Maslow’s Pyramids of Needs on my desk by lunch? Thanks buddy. You know, you really are the mitochondria of this place. What’s a mitochondria?” *Grabs by the face* “IT’S THE POWERHOUSE OF THE CELL”.
Sadly, other students aren’t exposed to the working world until, well, they leave college itself. And it’s only then, facing a swarm of angry customers, that they back into a corner, shaking, tears streaming down their face.
“Pluzz, just form a normal distribution.”
3. Nothing from the course is relevant
On the flip side, some students prefer the cavalier approach of announcing from the very first lecture “Haha, but in the real world x is y not z. Who needs z?” You’ll probably notice they also talk a big game about “making connections” and “engaging with real businesses” (they may forget to mention their parents own one, two, maybe twenty of those same businesses).
Of course, they encourage you to have the same attitude, to just rock up to the roundabout of life in third gear in the wrong lane with no signal and oh God what’s that behind the wheel, is that a baby?
Some 9 to 5’s actually share a good deal of crossover with their college counterparts, and while there’s always that one story of “that fella who never hires people who got 1.1s”, it stands to reason to not throw your grades off a cliff just because it’s funny to hear them scream on the way down.
4. The food is great
When I first stepped into college, I kinda imagined it would be a bit like Zoey 101, maybe just fewer scooters and without the same GREAT theme tune.
Unfortunately, I quickly learned that they didn’t have dacent sushi bars or foot golf or even that weird energy drink I’d been looking forward to. Instead, we kinda just got stuck with this weird alt-reality where all food came in roll format. Breakfast? Roll. Sausage? Roll. Chicken? *checks chart* Roll.
And at some point I realised that there was probably an Italian man sitting in the mountains above Milan, sipping wine at the pool, counting stacks of Pasta money.
“Ah Irish students, you make-a-me so happy.”
Is that racist? No, it’s Mario Kart. Mario Kart can’t be racist.
5. The parties are awesome!
If I was let down by the food, then oh dear was I let down by the parties. That’s not to say those four years didn’t see memorable moments, but most weren’t the college dorm ragers I’d imagined. Often, they were nothing more than a few friends, five or six souls sharing a drink in the corner of a bar. A few close hearts wandering the empty backstreets or spread out under the stars, laughing at a joke they couldn’t remember. They certainly weren’t red cups and breakdancing and people swinging from the chandelier while Fallout Boy played in the kitchen.
The [insert college party at classmate’s house here] actually wore on me fairly fast. I’m probably an exception, but I think everyone would agree there comes a point three hours into the night where suddenly, collapsed in a chair, the walls start to look odd and you half-feel Stephen King is about to write you into a horror story. Everything in the house that’s supposed to have legs (chairs, tables, that room-mate who studies med) doesn’t while everything that shouldn’t just gets up and crawls off half way through the night.
You sort of transition from hearing the music to feeling it in your head to tasting it at the end of your drink.
*Spits* “Ughh. Why does Avicii taste like mouthwashed motor oil?”
6. Study is easy. College is easy
I think after Leaving Cert most students feel they’ll never sit a real exam again. Just college ones. LOL. Hand me my A, teach!
Sadly, Leaving Cert sells you a lie. It promises you a world where there’s a limit, where you just have to learn to a certain point and then just hand it all back. In college, there’s no defined limit, just this vague space filled with a lecturer’s voice on repeat.
*Echoes* “How long is an essay? Well, how long is a piece of string?”
College correctors act as though nobody has anything better to do than to wait for Murray et al to drop their fire new lit review 2017. Reference something from over 5 years ago and you might as well hand up cave drawings in support of your answer. Give ’em anything not double-spaced and they’ll look at you as though you just tried to sacrifice them to the flames.
The harsh truth is that most people try for half the first term, give up for most of the middle, and then rush it all in at the end.
That’s weird. I just had this random urge to write the word Arsenal. Anyway.
7. I’m going to make so many friends!
This is sadly the saddest of all sads that one learns through college. We all pass through those doors thinking we’ve just inherited a fortune. A fortune of FRIENDS that is.
*Sigh* I digress.
Most people I know agree that you definitely make friends, lots of them even, but they’re all just really hard to define. Some are lifelong, others are temporary, and some just sort of hang around long after their expiration date which, to be fair, is very college-esque of them. You could rename college “Acquaintance Land” and very few people would know the difference. Not that acquaintances are a bad thing, but for those who want more, you really just don’t have the time to sincerely commit yourself to 200 people. In fact, it’s not fair on you or those people to try. Choices will have to be made, but with luck, you’ll filter out the racists and the maybe-serial-killers and the ones who won’t participate in pizza at 3 am. Which brings me to my last point.
This is as true about life as it is about college. We’re all sold the idea that people just want to get involved, that they’re on the verge of it, that any moment now there’ll be a coffee morning or a flash mob. In reality, there is Netflix, and tea, and bed. Participating in anything at all requires effort, energy that could be better spent at home enjoying blankets and chocolate and Season 2 of Suits.
But the great thing is that sometimes you can
share a pizza buy two pizzas.
And that in itself is why it doesn’t matter what they tell you about college.
Because nobody talks to you about the times they fell asleep at house parties and missed the night out, or the times they slammed their head on the table in the library, or the times they just sat in a corner of college and watched the other people drift by. Because you just can’t sell those things.
And that makes me glad.
Because you can’t put a price on them either.
P.S. I lied, number 9 and 10 did not exist.