The Account of a Lifetime

December 21, 2007

The Seventh Semester

Filed under: Reflections — xisor @ 6:37 pm

Well, I suppose that’d be that. 

I should introduce myself somewhat: I am Frank O’Hanlon, a student and a physicist , twenty-one years old and a resident of both Cowdenbeath and St Andrews, Scotland. This blog, I suppose, will be the account of a lifetime. And here you join me at the end of seventh semester.

Just today, I finished my seventh semester at the University of St Andrews. I think it was a good one. Time will tell, of course, and if it doesn’t, then at very least the exams will. Which makes me think back…

This last year, 2006-2007 has been an…odd year. Back in ’06, since the beginning of September, my life had been falling apart. My relationship was going to the dogs. A complete lack of communication, frustration with each other, stress. It all mounted up. The end of the relationship was terrible, but fortunately not as bad as it could have been. The reflection of this on the rest of my life was tremendous. My work suffered immensely, and academically I haven’t been the same since. It took its toll…my results suffered, I was only just competent enough to secure my way on the Master of Physics (Theoretical Physics) program after being dropped from the Mathematics component of the course.

 But, now that that was done, the relationship was over, I could begin trying to heal myself. To heal the damage I’d done to others. By the end of the relationship I feel it was really a coin-toss between me becoming an absolutely insufferable arsehole to one-and-all, extremely selfish and very acidic in conversation or the alternative of…well, anything but that. Truly, I hoped the dissolution of the relationship, no matter how distraught I was by its end, would allow me the ability to get better.

I think it worked. That Christmas was…fun. I spent it with friends back home in Dunfermline (well, Dunfermline isn’t my home, but I’ve spent enough time there!). Similarly for New Year. It was nice to spend time at home with my dad and sister, and generally I feel I’d recuperated well.

The exams were…in a word…hellish. So let us skip by them.

The next semester was intense. As I denoted it on my Bebo blog, it was “Further than I’ve ever gone before”. It started off being over one hundred credits, but as I dropped two modules I settled down to a healthy eighty-five credits (significantly more than the that sixty we’re supposed to do). It was a fun semester, and I began to repair some of the damage I’d done to myself academically, but also realised just how bad the damage was.

The exams afterwards were similarly tragic, but they at least showed significant improvement too. And so, with the end of the semester, it was time to bid adeiu to the medics I’d known for three years and look forward to the future. That summer I hoped to do a lot of work and make a lot of money, and I sort of did. Except the job was mind-numbingly boring. Good physical work, stacking boxes and things, but it was really quite dire. I lost religion during that job, but that’s another blog entry entirely!

After a couple of long-afternoons at work contemplating what to do with myself, I eventually resolved my life-long dream into an actual concrete plan. I’d decided: I was going to Albania!

Yes, so, plotting to finish work a month early, and go on holiday to Magalluf with a couple of friends for a few days, I’d decided that after doing that, I would continue on around Europe to my dream destination of the last four-or-five years of my life. I was set, I was going to Albania.

The trip itself ended up lasting just under a month, the longest time I’d ever been out of Scotland for in one go. So, I started in Manchester unexpectedly ending up amongst the gays and lesbians of the Pride event. Then on to Magalluf with Dave and Tass. Then, after bidding them goodbye one sunny Monday morning in August, I set off, alone. First to Palma, then to Barcelona. From Barcelona a few days later to Nice, and after a couple of days in Nice on to Rome and the Vatican. I spent only an afternoon in the capital before heading to the port of Bari to get my ferry to Albania. And boy, I had the time of my life. Well, to summarise, the first day carries the title of “the best day ever”in my life so far, again…that’s another blog entry! I spent just under a week in Albania before setting off on a journey to Poland to meet my friends from University who were due to be holidaying there. So, voyaging via Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary, Slovenia and (unexpectedly) the Czech Republic…I finally arrived in Poland. I spent around five days there, before setting off for Berlin. But that didn’t work out as planned. The next morning I was in Frankfurt and the immediate following afternoon I was in Paris. Quite unexpected, but a lot of fun. The day after? Belgium, Brugge specifically. A place I’d been once before in the summer of 2001. Quite nostalgic, really. But I survived all the way to the ferry, and from there I returned to Scotland. Scotland, for the Seventh Semester.

The Seventh Semester

So it began. I had a night out in Dunfermline the Friday before it began. I was driven to St Andrews that Saturday afternoon and I arrived at Albany Park, my new home, in good time. That freshers week was immense, second only to the freshers week of my first year. Enjoyed good company at many parties that week, and over the course of it, I managed to secure myself a personal record I don’t expect ever to beat: Ten nights out in a row. Through a curiously odd evening’s events, I managed to miss my advising that week, but then catch up on it and find out that, as I’d hoped but expected to be denied, I was allowed to take thirty credits of maths courses! A dream come true! Well…

So, the semester was set to begin. For the first time in my university career I was doing exactly the recommended amount of courses (usually I’d been doing more…). I lived in a house filled with good friends, I was enjoying my courses. Life was good.

And curiously, it stayed good. All through the semester. I lived happily ever after, for a little time at least. I made foolish mistakes, elementary goofs and plenty of school-boy errors, but all in all: it was good. I found my courses interesting and extremely difficult. I had plenty of time to spend with my friends, and plenty of time to spend making new friends. And I think, all in all, it worked out very well. It is sad to know that, come the end of the year, I expect a lot of my friends will leave. It is the problem with having a ten-semester lifespan at university due to your course…not everyone else does. The medics were only here for six, most others for only eight. Of those friends that I made at the start university, only a handful, perhaps six or seven at best, will remain here next year. But that is good, they’re excellent people, and I’ll cherish them.

But what have I learned?

I’ve learned a lot. It’s hard to codify, but if I were to sum up this seventh semester, I’d say that there’s a lot more to life than living it. Taking time to appreciate it is key. I think I’m duty bound now to try to give something back to my friends and classmates (and lecturers and tutors and generally everyone). I’ve no idea what it could be, but in the short term I think not being the arrogant arsehole I was might be a good start.

A Summary?

Well, it’s difficult to think of a better way to sum it up rather’n saying it was damn good fun. I hope I’ll be able to do well in my exams, but that’s really up in the air just now. Time will tell!

In the meantime, I hope to end the semester well with a wee night out with my final housemate (who leaves tomorrow, leaving me alone in the house) and some of the friends that remain behind. Then I’ve got until Monday to start summarising coursework, relearning partial fractions, buying Christmas presents etc.

So, that’s you introduced to the life I lead. I expect no-one’ll have read this far yet. Certainly not until I start writing something useful about anything, but until then, this’ll do as a decent little journal for my own use. By the time someone else is reading this I trust it’ll have a lot more interesting things! So in that regard, I’ll say “Hello and goodbye from the seventh semester!”


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