Things I’ve learnt at university (an un-definitive list).

If you’d asked me a year ago why I was adding an Honours year to my degree, I would’ve said it was to prolong – delay, even – the having to make a choice about what I wanted to do, delay the having to ‘get a real job’ thing and all the stuff that accompanies not being a student, like bank fees, and ridiculously priced everything.
Initially I didn’t want to do Honours (why would you voluntarily add another one to two years onto your degree?) for the simple reason that it involved writing a thesis of twelve to fifteen thousand words, something which scared me stupid. (It was only once my supervisor told me to cut bits out that I realised I’d written more than I thought I would, more than I had ever written before. Now, I know I can at least write something in the vicinity of sixteen-thousand two-hundred words all told, and I’m still not sure if it’s what I set out to write.) After I’d actually figured out how the hell you actually ‘do’ Honours – how to get the balance of researching, processing your research, writing ideas, and meeting with your supervisor every three to four weeks right – I realised that, as strange as it sounds, I actually liked the researching bit, the finding of as much stuff as you possibly can and digesting it all, seeing what comes out, what connections and ideas you can come up with, the hitherto unnoticed patterns that may become apparent. If there’s one thing I know I am going to miss about university, it’s the library and all the journals and databases you’re given access to.

So: Ten Things I’ve learnt at university:

  • “Because everybody likes action films, and Mad Max 2 is an action film, it must stand that Mad Max 2 is the best Australian film.” – My tutor, second-year cinema studies.
  • “Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.” – William Shakespeare, Sonnet 94
  • If you’re majoring in Creative Writing at university, and would like a career doing so, don’t cut up the lyrics from your favourite band’s songs and rearrange them, calling it your own poetic work. And even if you do ask a friend to correct the grammar, tenses, and punctuation in your work, whatever you do, don’t admit to it in class in front of the tutor.
  • Most tutors and or lecturers – in fact, most academics – will attest to being ‘really open-minded people,’ but as soon as you say something that contradicts or challenges their world-view, then up goes the brick wall, and you see just how narrow-minded and insular they really are, just like everyone else.
  • “I like dogs, mankind I don’t care for too much. You’re supposed to like mankind because you’re part of it, but I prefer dogs. They are honest and they don’t lie.” – Aki Kaurismaki
  • If you are a lecturer in Children’s Literature, it might be useful to know the details of the books you’ll be discussing and alluding to in your lecture. Otherwise it just sets a bad example. (And just for the record, it was an allegory, they entered through a wardrobe, he was a professor, and they were evacuees, not a simile, cupboard, their uncle, and orphans.)
  • Writing an essay in a day whilst severely jetlagged won’t get you marks. Honesty will.
  • Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus is awesome: so completely deranged, unhinged and overthetop that you can’t help but laugh and squirm at the same time. And its serial protagonists – Tamora, Aaron, Titus – are each as psychotic and twisted as the others.
  • “Starting to dig is a fatal mistake: once you start, you cannot stop; the more you dig, the more questions you have than answers.” – Eileen Chanin, on researching (SWF2012)
  • Magic is found in the most unexpected places. On a darkened stage as four people huddle around a single torch performing words you wrote. In tube stations and art galleries. In the corners of a best friend’s smile.

Then there were the new words, words which quickly became favourites – words like peregrinations and defenestration; I learnt that sometimes the only thing that will make everything better is an MGM musical, an Audrey Hepburn film, or the Beatles’ music; the friends I have now are some of the most extraordinary people I know, and knowing them means the world to me; sometimes the craziest ideas on paper will turn out to be rather quite awesome in reality; that life happens at 33 ⅓ revolutions per minute, and “[music] is capable of just about anything.”

I finished university today after four-and-a-half years.
And so I celebrated, celebrated the only way I knew how.
By listening to the Beatles, hanging out with friends in the city, and going to the theatre.
Sometimes these really do feel like the best days of my life.

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