It can seem sometimes (and those times are usually early January) that life is a bit miserable. Spring term exams are scheduled months in advance, but they still seem to spring up out of nowhere, a pun that explains their title better than the season, which definitely has not arrived by Jan 4th. The mad dash to find housing for next year begins and Christmas is over. You return from the holidays to find that revision, interspersed with last minute panic and exams, seems to stretch indeterminately before you. Within days your room is a mess, you eat pasta every day, and you forget your laundry. And then, suddenly, you emerge from a tunnel of flashcards and notes into the bright light of a new term.
This is today for me: the day after my last exam. And as I sit here in my newly cleaned room, I would like to focus on the positives. Exams can make you feel like biology is impossible, tedious, and full of very similar acronyms, and it can take a while for you to realise that those things aren’t true (except the last one, which definitely is). The Biology degree at York is flexible, and has you learning in several different styles, but even so, I find that the best reminders for why I love my subject are found outside of formal studies.
As I mentioned briefly in my last post, I volunteer at the Yorkshire Museum. I run a stand called ‘Fabulous Fossils’, which allows visitors to handle real fossils and ask questions about them. In lectures and practicals I am the one learning, listening and taking notes. When volunteering, however, I am the one talking and teaching people, and it makes a refreshing change. I get to share my love of trilobites and Pterosaurs to an essentially captive audience, and I get to handle fossils as well! As I told my housemate after I finished volunteering for the first time, it is basically my dream job, and it helps remind me why I decided to study Biology in the first place!
I also make an effort to read books related to Biology. After taking a module on Developmental Biology I read Your Inner Fish, a surprisingly interesting examination of how we can see our evolution through human anatomy and fish fossils. I’m currently starting On the Origin of Species as well, because I find evolution fascinating, and looking at its historical origins as a theory fascinating in its own way.
In a lazier strain, I will watch anything with Sir David Attenborough in it. The most recent one I watched was Life Stories, and my verdict is that it was amazing. It’s true that I would say that about any Attenborough documentary, but this one gets extra points for featuring barnacle geese, a species you’ll be very familiar with if you spend time on campus.
I hope this year, as you study various A levels and are swamped with revision, you can take some time to remind yourself why you enjoy Biology, whether it be through volunteering, reading around the subject, or any other extracurricular activities. Remember – school and university are temporary, but a passion for Biology is lifelong!