The gloom-inducing thought of final year sparks a flurry of ‘last chance to-’ activities. It inspires both impromptu pints and late nights in the reading room, is both an excuse and a curse. It involves walking a thin line, savouring the last dregs of student life while also holding tight to your degree for those final few months, till you’re standing in a square cap in the quadrangle on a windy morning in October with it safely signed and rolled up in your fist, ready for the mantelpiece at home.
I find myself pondering the many, if trivial, things I’ve never done during my time here. I never joined enough societies or clubs, I never went rollerblading along the promenade, I never availed of discounts on my SU card, I never played Frisbee on the banks of the Corrib on a sunny day. One hand is furiously writing notes and the other is lifting a bottle of Conde Noble. One foot is on a mountainside in Connemara and the other is running late for a lecture. One eye is squinting into the future at a beach somewhere along the equator and the other is scanning the library for seats. In the back of my mind is the suspicion that things might soon begin to happen very fast.
How do you gather up your student days and put them somewhere safe, where you’ll always have them? Between the dates and deadlines of the academic calendar are many markers, from the banal and boring to the very best. The number of times you crossed the Quincentennial bridge in the cruel winter rains and the sum total of words used to complain about the Galway weather. The amount of nights that went quickly from being ‘just one’ to a late-night/early-morning taco fries feast in Charcoal Grill.
Forgotten addresses of after-parties and surplus taxis ordered for pre-drinks. The millions of hurried footsteps taken on the never-ending concourse corridor, from Smokies to Bank of Ireland shimmering in the distance like a mirage in the desert. The collective number of rollies smoked outside the library during study weeks and the amount, in milligrams, of coffee consumed.
Even though many of us are probably ready to leave, once we do we’re adrift, for better or for worse. We’ve been given the tools to think critically, but to live independently seems infinitely harder. Stretching a tenner over three or four days and including one night out is a fantastic, if depressing, exercise in economy, but it’s more making-do than doing-well. And all the while smug relatives remark, gleefully, of bills and taxes and the other inconvenient trappings of the adult world- “it’s all ahead of you”. Now seems to be the time to appreciate being within walking distance of so many of our friends and being able to make plans without hassle. To appreciate being late without consequences, often without even being noticed. It won’t be so acceptable to sidle into the back of a business meeting and nudge your colleagues over a few seats before you whip out your pen and wipe toothpaste off the corner of your mouth.
In all likelihood, it won’t be the end of many things we’ve become accustomed to in the past few years: exorbitant rent-rates and cranky landlords, increasingly violent hangovers, numerous cups of tea per day, binge watching TV series. And for now, at least, the question of what to do ‘after’ is distant by a few more months. There’s time to break a leg on the promenade, time to play Jenga in Caribou, time to increase employability by attending all of the jobs fairs in the Bailey Allen. From now until exams are so many “last chance to-” opportunities that need to be enjoyed, and hopefully more than a few sunny days.