In Which I Write Another List

(I really need to branch out from the whole list thing in my next post)

We’re into week 4 of first term, and things are getting back into a routine of sorts. I’m beginning to learn my housemates’ timetables (since mine doesn’t exactly require much memorisation), we’ve made the trek to Morrisons’ for weekly food shops a few times, had our first house party, set up a cleaning rota that would be impressive if it survives the month, and already had our various existential-degree-related crises. The whole 4 hours a week thing is taking some getting used to, but I think I’m getting the hang of structuring my own time. I’m busier than I thought I would be with society committee responsibilities, playing basketball and now writing an online fortnightly Features column for Exeposé; but I’m not complaining. Busy is best for me, and I’m more than happy to accept the late nights and early starts as long as it doesn’t mean I’m languishing in bed till midday everyday feeling purposeless.

All that being said, I’m (typically) writing this the day before my first deadline of the year, so I’m going to keep it short and sweet for once! Second year is already shaping up to be very different from first, so I thought I’d have a look at some of the main differences I’ve noticed so far.

  • You’re used to the hills

Autumn campusAfter any extended stay away from Exeter that first high-powered hike up Forum Hill burns. You’ve heard it all before and you’ll hear it again (many, many times), but Exeter’s hills really are an iconic feature of the University. And probably the reason people are so sporty. They have to be a reasonable level of fitness to get anywhere on time. As seasoned second years though, we’re learning the tricks of the trade. Morrisons’ is a 20 minute walk but at least it’s a flat one, you’ll need to leave the house 5 minutes earlier to get up to a lecture in Newman Blue etc, etc.

  • You feel less homesick

This is definitely a welcome development. Although it was bitter pill to swallow at the time, the only long-term cure for homesickness is time and distance. It was tough in first term, but got easier as the year went on, and it’s still getting easier now. Sometimes it’s a surprise to realise I haven’t called home in four or five days, and it’s a strange feeling that as much as I love my family, I had been quite busy enough to not think about them for the best part of a week. I know it’s an inevitable part of growing up to feel less attracted to the idea of going home, but it is certainly a very satisfying and tangible thing too. There’s that quote about ‘friends being the family you choose for yourself’, and despite the grotty accommodation and nightmares over bills, a little family is exactly what you establish in a student house, and it’s so much more comforting than the bland corridors of first year.

  • You know your way around (sort of)

I still have to ask the poor receptionist at Queens every. Single. Time. Where I’m meant to be going. She’s kind of resigned to it at this point. Knowing my way around town though is another matter. Living in a different part of Exeter has made me reevaluate my mental map of the city, but it’s also meant I’ve been able to connect up all those dots I hadn’t realised were connected by this side-street, or that footpath. Even though I did a fair bit of exploring last year, I’m determined to broaden my horizons again this year, and find new foodie places and pubs to take guests to.

  • You feel more confident

ForumGoing to Freshers’ events with a few friends and a ‘can-do-it-doesn’t-matter-if-we-make-fools-of-ourselves’ attitude was so refreshing, and so much more fun than the terrifying experience of last year. Having friends already is a novelty that will never wear off when it comes to Freshers I feel. It’s nice to be involved in societies instead of just turning up to events, it’s nice to know people outside your course and in different years through society committees, it’s nice to no longer feel pressured to do everything because it’s just too impossible. You just do what you can fit in and with people you like, and it’s a great feeling.

  •  “Way more work (well, for me, anyway)”

This slightly passive aggressive quote is from my very motivated medical scientist housemate, who I interrupted mid-lecture write up to ask for her opinion on changes so far in second year. Bless. It’s a statement that would probably be concurred by the English, Biology and Economics students living with us too. And most of the second years on campus. I’m biding my time on the whole work front this term I know, after Christmas will be a brutal return to reality!

  • TFW: Second Year Superiority Style

We all have to be a Fresher at some point, but if I’m honest it’s great to no longer be the newbies. Yeah, you can’t pull the ‘but nothing counts!’ card in second year, but at least we can fondly laugh at the Freshers who panic about getting a ticket to the ‘best night of their lives’ at Unit 1 or who turn up to Freshers’ fair expecting to find a cash machine on campus without a two mile queue.  We laugh because we were right there with them 12 months ago, but the important thing is that we’re oh so mature and sorted now. Obviously.

Bring on Second Year

The first week of term has flown by already in an exhausting mix of 7am alarms for painfully early 8:30am lectures and evenings spent at various second year house-warmings. Despite being shattered already, to say I’m glad to be back is a huge understatement. I’ve missed Exeter so much – I’ve missed the Forum and the pricey AMT milkshakes, I’ve missed the library and the satisfaction of finding 6 entire shelves full of relevant texts to your interests, I’ve missed being surrounded by young people and familiar faces; I’ve even missed the hills. The amount of reading and research that needs to be done this term is looming and my housemates are already attempting to secure placements for next year, but at the same time I can’t help but feel bizarrely content to be back in the buzz and minor stress of it all. Summer, despite the occasional interludes of lovely holidays and travelling, was for the most part quite a long and lonely experience, and it’s so good to be returned to my Devon home.

That being said, I can tell a lot of things are going to be different this year, and my course is no exception. This term I’m in the interesting position of taking only two 30 credit modules; an independent research module called ‘Doing History’ and an Intermediate French language module with the Foreign Language Centre (FLC). Combined, I have the terrifying total of 4 contact hours a week. Four.

Compared to the structured set up of last year, when I was up on campus every weekday going to this Medieval History seminar or that Modern lecture, the lack of any real timetable is definitely unnerving. I have plenty to keep me busy I’m sure, but I’m a hopeless procrastinator, and am a little worried that my days will blur into successive weeks of ‘not much getting done’.

So, in traditional September fashion – the month of New Beginnings for the past 14 years of my life in the British education system – I’ve decided to make a few resolutions. Not all are work related, but hopefully they’ll give me some structure to build my week around!

  1. Play a sport

When the recent league tables for 2015/6 came out, alongside retaining it’s top 10 position, the University of Exeter was awarded the prestigious title of the Sunday Times’ ‘Sports University of the Year’. Considering my sporting participation last year (or rather, sincere lack thereof) I think it’s fair to say that this title is in no way thanks to my contribution. This year however, I’m determined to join the two-thirds of the student population who are involved in sport, across some 50 different clubs and societies, and actually join a team. As someone who has avoided the intense fitness-based atmosphere of the Sports’ Park and has shockingly bad hand-eye coordination at the best of times, this might be an interesting one – but I’ve decided the women’s Development Basketball team can’t be all that scary. So I’ve handed over the £70, signed myself up for some stash, and will be going to first training on Sunday. Wish me luck!

  1. Learn a language

Is this a cop-out seeing as I’m already signed up to do a French module? Maybe. But it has been a good two and a half years since my AS French exams, and despite my best attempts at being put in the Beginners set (Me: “Seriously, I’m not AS standard anymore, I can barely remember the present tense let alone the subjunctive”, FLC Lady: “I’m sorry but I simply can’t put someone with above GCSE standard in the beginners group”) I’ve been signed up to an Intermediate course. So, we’ll see how that goes. It will be nice to use a different part of my brain memorising vocab and butchering the French accent instead of trawling through history books, and hopefully it’ll come back pretty quickly! A language is a great addition to any CV as I’ve been told, and the FLC really does make it very easy to sign up, so I’d recommend it to anyone out there considering it as well!

3.  Go veggie

This is nothing to do with university as such, but as a result of a combination of financial, environmental, ethical and sheer will-power-testing motives, I’ve decided to give the whole veggie thing a try. I’m not the world’s biggest fan of meat anyway, and in an attempt to spice up my culinary repertoire (which is pretty limited) I think actively trying to be vegetarian and having to seek out new ingredients and recipes could be a good challenge.

4. It’s second year already – embrace the fact that The Future is inevitable

It’s the classic question that all final years dread; “so, what are you going to do once you’ve finished your degree?” but I’m determined I won’t be left rambling on about internships that may or may not exist or vague plans to take a year out travelling. That means jumping on the bandwagon now, and starting to take a hard look at life beyond university, and what I can do about it now. The most important thing in the immediate future is deciding on my year abroad (which university is most suited to me? What are the courses like? What about the weather? And how cheap are plane tickets?) but I’m also keen to finish my Exeter Award, get involved in Career Zone ventures like the eXpert scheme, and sort out a useful Internship for next summer.

  1. Don’t get too stressed.

Last year I started well, far better than I anticipated actually, but ended up really struggling for the latter half of first term. More than anything, my aim this year is to not let that happen again. I’m surrounded by a supportive, lovely group of people and I know my way around the numerous support facilities the university offers, so I’m in a far better place to face a new academic year already. I’ve just got to keep my head and not let it all get to me when the workload and expectation inevitably ramps up as term progresses.

This year as part of student blogger duties, I’m also going to have a go at taking a snapshot of my daily life here at Exeter on the app ‘One Second Everyday’. It’s pretty self-explanatory, and now I’ve worked out how to use it (just about) hopefully by the end of this year I’ll have a neat, little video summing second year up. Bring it.