We’ve all heard the joke. We’ve all made the joke. We all are the joke. The Student Life is a well established hashtag, and at this point, most of us have accepted it as a legitimate description of the lives we now lead. But within this unfortunate joke, there are a lot of contradictions, so much so that I would go so far as to question whether any of us do in fact lead the student life.
Firstly, let’s talk about money. All students are strapped for cash, at least, so goes the stereotype. We are, in fact, so strapped for cash we don’t eat meals, we simply eat things we find in a can on the shelves in Tesco and heat it up because then it meets at least half the criteria of a “hot meal”. I accidentally conducted a social survey (admittedly with only one participant) to contradict this suggestion that students can’t afford to regularly splash out on the finer things in life.
I was sitting in the student centre chatting with some new friends about whether or not I should get a ticket to the Freshers’ Ball, making multiple references to the emptiness of my bank account. Everyone around me chimed in with words of agreement, and we complained for a little while. We really made quite the perfect picture of students starting out on the “Student Life”. But then something seemingly innocuous yet altogether paradoxical happened. The boy beside me started to get up, announcing that he was off to go get a coffee, and another guy got up to join him. It took my brain a second to register its confusion. How can students be broke and still fork out so regularly for one of the most overpriced products for sale in the developed world? They went to Starbucks too! That’s like €4 for a coffee! My cash-strapped little head went into overdrive, calculating the many more essential things you could buy with that money, like, perhaps, your bus trip home.
So living the “Student Life” implies having no money, yet also includes regular trips to Starbucks. It seems we have already found a fundamental flaw in its definition.
On a similar note, anyone living the “Student Life” is guilty of having suggested to someone “let’s go grab a coffee” but upon arrival at Starbucks they order green tea. Nowadays, I am genuinely surprised when an invitation to coffee ends with me actually drinking coffee.
So it seems being a student involves drinking a lot of expensive coffee (or mochas or frappuccinos or whatever caffeinated drink you’re into), but never doing it when you have said you’ll do it. When I set out to see if my lifestyle was the student lifestyle, I did not think it would be this confusing.
Speaking of confusion, let’s talk about the flustered looks on the faces of the many, many students who arrive at their first lectures with a laptop ready to take notes, only to realise autocorrect on Google docs does not work like the one on our phones, and our frantic typing has resulted in several chopped up sentences of gibberish that certainly don’t resemble anything the lecturer said that day.
And then there’s the rivalry with Trinity that we bought into on Day 1, without ever getting time to develop the passion with which we profess our superiority over them, regardless of the fact that for some of us, Trinity was actually our first choice, or for others of us, a close second on our CAO.
We come into college with no actual idea of how to have a social life and at the same time avoid the bottom half of the class list. The “Student Life” is about lectures and nights out, in varying proportions depending on the student. The only interaction between the two is creating the certainty that you’re either absent at your 9am lecture, or hungover at your 9am lecture. Yet 9ams are not empty lectures, meaning that one way or another, not all of us are leading that “Student Life”.
While I bike to UCD (saving the price of those many bus fares for the price of one single taxi home from a night out), that does not mean I have not yet enjoyed the mad panic beside an impatient bus driver as I desperately search for the exact change for the bus fare. Now with the leap card, are we even living the true “Student Life” without that daily experience?
The one thing about this “Student Life” I have yet to comprehend is the sudden movement in the attitudes of students from being completely lackadaisical about exams to asking about assessment twice each lecture, and four times in a double. On this issue of exams, I’m still undecided whether this means we do in fact lead the “Student Life”, but I’ve seen enough, in my short two weeks since being born into it, to realise that of all the stereotypes I chose to dismiss as fiction, the “Student Life” probably should have been one of them.
Madeleine Long – Features Writer