TAB GRAD says…Enjoy Reality While it Lasts!

At some point in time during an academic year, a student will become aware that they are an active participant in some sordid, depraved deed. Whether this is accidentally vomiting […]

At some point in time during an academic year, a student will become aware that they are an active participant in some sordid, depraved deed. Whether this is accidentally vomiting on the back of a potential sexual partner while grinding on the Jesters dance floor or pitifully purchasing a large doner kebab on chips to eat on a lonely walk home in the rain at 2.10am, the average student will at one point become consciously appalled at their actions. Not that this should ever act as a wake-up call (you’re only at university for three years and yes, you should make the most of it), but every so often there is a brief moment of clarity before the fog sets back in.

One particular instance stands out from my own time at the University of Southampton. Having consumed vast quantities of spicy food alongside a wide array of alcoholic beverages (several each from the lager, spirits and shots selections) I proceeded to expunge my stomach of its contents into a half-pint glass at the Hobbit, right in the middle of the main bar area.

I woke up the next morning with a decent memory of events, although it was later to be revealed my version of being asked to leave the pub was a little different to how it exactly went down. As as far as I was concerned, I happily accepted the kindly bouncer’s suggestion that I leave the premises immediately, gratefully apologising for my actions as I was escorted out by my fellow students. That memory was presented to me as a silent film strip, complete with comedy captions and theatrical facial expressions.

How it actually went down, according to those present at the time, was rather more explicit, featuring a blunt, curse-filled portion of sarcasm directed at the bouncer’s pony-tailed haircut. And a lot more bodily juices than I first recalled.

Compare that grisly image with that of graduation. Never has irony been so pretentious, what with the gowns and the mortarboards and the tudor-like ceremony itself. I spent most my time remembering the damned and deviant acts I knew my classmates had been privy to during the past three years, and wondering if the academic tutors present could remember what student life was like. If so (and I believe many of them do), what sort of charade were we all part of?

There was all this formality, long gowns, coats of arms, clasped hands and red carpets. It is almost as if the setting of graduation ceremonies has to be as exaggerated and dressed up as possible just to convince graduates, tutors and parents alike that the past three years had been spent knee-deep in library books, completing essays well ahead of the deadline and learning how to cook meals far more elegant than a cheese and ham toastie.

Here’s an example of the sort of short, hushed conversation you have with the pro vice chancellor just before you receive your degree certificate:

“Did you enjoy your time at Southampton?”

“Yes thank you, it was fantastic.”

“I’m so pleased you had a good time. How did you find your course?”

“It was tougher than I first thought, but it taught me to work hard.”

“I remember going through the same when I was at University. What are you looking to do now?”

“I’m taking a year out to go traveling before I move to the city to pursue a career in banking.”

“That sounds exciting, congratulations again.”

“Thank you.”

Honest to God, that is probably an exact transcript of someone’s conversation as they stood, hands in a prayer like fashion, up on the big screen. I like to think the pomposity of it all compared to the depravity of student life is obvious to everyone in the room and this exchange is full to the brim with subtext.

“Did you enjoy your time at Southampton?”

“From the very first night at Sobar, when I drank seven quadvods before making out with my flatmate, setting of the fire alarm after burning a slice of toast and then violently throwing up in a phone box, I knew I’d be happy here.”

“I’m so pleased you had a good time. How did you find your course?”

“I picked History because I knew I’d only have to attend about ten hours a week, although that did prove too much so I decided to only go to campus on Wednesday afternoons, although of course I had no classes scheduled then because of sports. After a lot of research I did come to the conclusion that Irn Bru and Chocolate Hobnobs are my best all-nighter fuel. I always got my partner to make the powerpoint presentation, and one time I may have possibly offered my body to my tutor to seal a 2:1 on a 1500 word assignment.”

“I remember going through the same while I was at University. What are you looking to do now?”

“I’ll probably try and live the same life as I have done for the past three years in my hometown, before realising alcohol is actually quite expensive, my friends all have jobs and boasting about using a student loan to buy a new macbook is quite irritating to hear if you’re paying taxes. Then I’ll most likely find a job at Co-Op, just to tide me over.”

“That sounds exciting. Congratulations again.”

“Cheers. Know of any jobs?”

Of course there are plenty of students who have earned their place at that graduation ceremony through sheer bloody-mindedness, hard-work and the usual combination of blood, sweat and tears. These are the ones who have earned that first-class honours degree, who are actually three years of study smarter than the rest of us and probably specialists in their chosen fields. But still, is such a ceremony appropriate? I can imagine some of the newer universities have less of a tradition and conduct things with a sense of “Cool Dad” in them. Graduands would walk up the carpet as the Kaiser Chiefs blare out, the pro chancellor would throw a high five and ask how “wicked” university was, and instead of gowns there would be baseball caps or gillets.

Still, the awkward charade would remain. It’s on a par with singing religious songs at wedding, especially when most of the guests are of that chic-athiest viewpoint. We know we don’t believe what’s being sung, the Bride and Groom know we don’t believe what’s being sung, but heck, we’re going to sing it anyway. Is this the precedent for post-university life? Is the real world based entirely on such lets-pretend?

“So what would you say are your biggest weaknesses?”

“I sometimes care too much, I’m so punctual some people find it annoying, and I often bring my work home with me.”*

* My farts smell of three-day-old omelettes and I’m prone to stealing post-it notes.

Check this space for more dismal post-uni tales from our disillusioned writer, the Tab Grad.