Perhaps it’s time we stop talking about exams

I need a safe space

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The term is marching on, and the time till judgement day is draining away almost as fast as my will to open up that Sedimentology textbook and spend another hour trying to cram more information about mud into my ever decreasing mental space.

Sleeping hours are being deemed unnecessary, midnight glasses of wine have become ubiquitous and I’m gradually starting to get to know the porter who comes to kick me out the library. More and more frequently, I find myself asking the age old question: ‘What is the point in being alive?’

I’m writing this in the glorious afterglow/hangover of what was honestly a great first Caesarean Sunday. The magical synthesis of sunshine, Sainsbury’s house Cava and a disgustingly floral shirt produced what has probably been my favourite day in the city, with an actually decent night out at Turf topping the event off well (props to Henry Page for a pretty excellent set). Plus I didn’t get set on fire, which is always good.

Heaven

Heaven

But inevitably good things come to an end: the sunshine has gone, the headache is ensuing and the prospect of another week trying to balance the course content that is still being rammed down our throats with 16 weeks worth of dry science looms like some kind of big black cloud of academia. All of this paling in comparison to the sheer thought of a formal exam, which I try my best to keep out of mind. Sadly, not a single person I know can shut up about it.

I understand that they’re important, I understand that you’re working like a dog trying to eek out that precious 61%, but please, for once can we talk about something else? There’s just no need for you tell me just how long you spent in the library last night. I really don’t care for your revision techniques and frankly I don’t want to know how many attoseconds there are until your first exam.

Obviously as freshers, this experience is fairly new for us. Most are used to a revision period lasting several weeks instead of one fortnight, and most can’t fathom the concept of less than 90% being a good grade, so stress is inevitable. The worrying state of some of my peers is just a symptom of the nasty toll that Easter term takes on the students of this university, and the question of mental health becomes even more important, but honestly, we don’t do ourselves any favours in terms of conversation. Constant chat about the impending doom that gets ever closer only drags us down further, with the damaging comparisons we make to others revision schedules leading to nothing but panic.

That strong Monday lecture s vibe

That strong Monday lecture s vibe

Now, before anyone calls me a hypocrite, I know, I’m as bad as the rest of you. I’m something of a maverick when its comes to linking any topic of conversation (weather, May week, gastroenteritis) to exams, somehow unlocking areas of my brain previously untouched to produce the kind of lateral thinking required to link my new investment in taste the difference tangerine to my upcoming Earth Sciences practical exam. Clearly, we need some kind of treaty, an agreement, a protocol. Or even, safe space?

I’ve always been cynical about the concept of safe spaces, Pembroke seems to have about seven these days, but on Sunday it was decided to turn Jesus Green into the exam equivalent. No mention of revision, mocks or your fucking timetable, just reclination, warm fizzy wine and rides in a presumably stolen supermarket trolley. It was bliss, a chance to put every single nagging fear of failure out your mind and just bask like some kind of desert reptile.

So maybe its time we made this a more regular thing. For all its efforts, the university’s attempts to make this an easier time for us (limited to welfare officers, alternative study spaces and puppies) fail to make any real difference, while an afternoon spent on Jesus Green has left me feeling better than ever.

Perhaps it’s time the colleges took notice.