A Bit of Fry and Uni

So it’s week three and we’re still soldiering on.

The work has begun in earnest now and sometimes keeping on top of the reading can feel like you’re only just managing to tread water, and the possibility of being sucked under is very real.

One of the main reasons for feeling so out of depth is definitely due to the academic language that is thrown around by professors and lecturers, who after being exposed to years of academia just assume that you are fluent too; more than once I’ve had to turn to the dictionary whilst reading an email from my tutor – word of the day for you = Paronomastic – Of, or related to puns.

But I’m sure it’s all very good for me – I feel like I’ve been doing mental push-ups for an hour after one of my tutorials, and as far as I can see, for no real benefit at the moment, but hopefully, given time, I will eventually be very buff…. In the brain that is.

But it’s not all work.

This week we were honoured with the presence of national treasure, Stephen Fry, and yours truly was lucky enough to have a ticket to see the great man in person. He was as always witty, charming, and a delight to hear, although the interviewer didn’t really get a word in edgeways. He mostly spoke about his life, but having led one so exciting and varied it inevitably touched on a range of important issues including homophobia, mental illness, and his own abuse of alcohol and drugs. Afterwards there was a book signing and I got a signature in my copy of his poetry book (which I admit I only bought the day before, but in fairness all of my books by him were at home!).

I think perhaps what makes him so important to people, especially to English and Drama students, is that he represents the creative ideal, so much of his work is already being dubbed as “classic” and so many of us were raised watching his genius on screen, but also the pitfalls of the flipside. There is a dangerous assumption that to make good “art” one must be a tortured soul, that you must write from a place of profound pain if you want to say something worthwhile – but when you hear him speak of his struggles with bipolar disorder you realise that, although Mr. Fry says that he wouldn’t make his mental health issues go away if he could because they are a part of him, there is nothing to be idealised or romanticised about a troubled genius. Perhaps his greatest quality is his ability to stand in the public eye warts and all, to admit his flaws and speak of them freely.

But what has this got to do with a blog about starting uni you say?

Well, what I took away from it, and I may be doing the typical English literature student thing and reading far too much into it, was that you don’t have to suffer to succeed. When an essay makes you feel like you’re drowning in treacle, reach out; whether it be to a friend, your advisor, or your tutor – it’s ok to admit that it’s hard. You’re just starting uni, it’s supposed to be.

Or at least that’s what I’m telling myself.


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