Returning to full time education after spending time in the big, bad grown-up world is one of the most exciting, yet daunting, experiences I've ever known. I'm about to start my fourth and final year of my undergrad degree after having taken some time out.
Suddenly I was a tiny fish in a very big pond. Throughout my first three years, I tried and tried to improve my grades which had suddenly become below average. I'd even hoped that choosing my modules would give me motivation to improve - but my grades were still nothing to write home about. By the end of third year, I could count on half of one hand the amount of A's that I'd gotten.
But my problem wasn't that I couldn't cope with the work - instead my issue was with the drastic change between teaching at school and learning at university. Suddenly, you have much more freedom. No one is forcing you to go to that class that you really can't face because you'd spent the night before in Viper. Doing that essay can definitely wait until after you've nipped into town to pick up that fancy dress costume. You can go to the John Smith and buy all the core textbooks, but nobody is going to pull you up for not reading them.
I didn't realise at the time what I was doing - I thought everybody went to every party, scraped the linings on their student overdrafts, forgot about the super important piece of coursework for uni, and then did it all again the next week. I wish I could find a time machine to tell the Fresher me that this was not the case.
When I first left uni I couldn't ever see myself going back. I had lost all interest. But as time went on I found myself sitting down at the piano to play for fun. I'd pick up my flute and exercise my fingers, and I even caught myself reading dusty books that had been recommended by lecturers in those long, boring classes.
It was like a light switch had gone on in my head - I had to return to uni and finish my degree. I've seen what life working full-time in a crappy job is like. This time around I'm completely in the right frame of mind to study. I'm not naive - I know that once I graduate, chances are I'll still be working in a similar job. But I'll be working with the knowledge that if I can bring myself back and graduate with a half-decent degree, I can do anything.
If my story brings you anything, I want it to be that as long and boring as those reading lists are, they've been recommended for a reason. Library fines aren't worth the hassle. And there's a reason the guy in your class is getting all those great marks but you aren't: it's probably because you've just missed your fifth and final class of the week, and there's still a little bit of sick on your shoe.