Am I Trapped in Dante’s Seventh Circle or do I Just Like it here?

Will Rowan

TWO ROWANS DON'T MAKE A RIGHT: How to become an expert student, get rich slowly, and fulfill the American Dream..

(Image: Iwan Stone)

I JUST PUT the phone down on an investor who was ready to invest £250,000 to own 5% of my brand new business idea: a stationary elevator. It’s the kind of high-powered thinking you can pull off with two university degrees and a sleep schedule that would make Rip Van Winkle cry himself to sleep. 

I had to put Deborah Meadon on hold as if I don’t write this column quickly, the editors are going to ‘boil me alive like a lobster’. Their words, not mine. Student journalism is a tricky business but not so tricky as being a student. We are, after all, experts here. 

So, Will, owner of a PS2 and more than one identical pair of trousers, how do I become an expert student? Firstly, it requires commitment. Commitment to what? Well, just about anything. Getting up early to go rowing, getting up late as you’ve been rowing the night before… getting up is a good place to start. You’re up. There’s a twinkle in your eye and a spring in your step. Just keep moving. 

When it comes to being a student there’s no surefire way to do it right. No recipe, no instruction manual, no cheat code scribbled on the back of your hand. Being a student means many things to many people. For some it’s a discount card, for others a ticket to a career, for many it’s a chance at a fresh start. That’s the wonderful and sometimes daunting thing about uni: you decide on the experience you have. 

This will be my fifth year at York as I start a PhD. When I first came to an open day all those years ago, I could never have imagined that I’d choose to stay here so long. York’s small enough to find your way around quickly but large enough that you can still discover new places after you graduate. Even after all that time, York and the University still offer plenty of new experiences to surprise you. 

Coming away from uni after first term I was shocked to discover places in the country where a student isn’t always within sight. You begin to appreciate these aspects of student life when you take a step back. There’s always something happening and somewhere to be, no matter how niche your interests may be. 

There will be times when you’re unsure and question yourself. Did I pick the right subject? Do I fit in? Did Green Book even deserve to be nominated Best Picture? It’s perfectly normal, especially in your first term. Don’t push these aside but explore them. Talk to your coursemates, flatmates, and tutors; they’ll likely have had the same thoughts. 

It’s going to be an odd year to be a fresher, there’s no avoiding it. It may have far more Zoom calls than you’d hope for, especially on “the best week of your life”. In all likelihood, it won’t be the best week of your life, pandemic or not. I’ve had plenty of better weeks in every term since freshers week. Just make the most of it and stay safe.