23rd February 2018 10am to 1pm – the specifics of my last Imperial undergraduate exam. MY LAST EVER ONE. Writing this now, I can’t quite believe it’s all over.
This exam season was no different to others (apart from the fact this exam counted for more than my entire first year – or something ridiculous like that). Many hours were spent in the library, working and procrastination in equal measure. For me, I always studied in St Mary’s library in Paddington as it was 5 minutes from home and, in my opinion, it’s the nicest library Imperial has – think old wooden beams and a studious vibe. Study sessions were intense, generally leaving me bleary eyed and slightly nauseous after all the binge snacking and coffee drinking to keep both my brain and motivation going. There were of course, the classic cycles of feelings from; I have all the time in the world to dear God this is so boring – is it even worth it?
Then before you know it, often before you’re even near ready, the exam comes hard and fast. The night before is an almost sacred time. Everyone treats this time differently; an opportunity for last minute cramming or dropping it all and throwing caution to the wind. I often work until early evening then stop. I always have a ready meal (because who has time to cook?) usually from M&S (treat yo’self) and then a nice relaxed evening, reading through my notes one last time and sleeping early (the only time in my life that I am asleep before 11pm).
The morning of the exam is full of ritual and superstition. I walk into uni at least an hour early listening to my favourite jazz artist Gregory Porter. I find his dulcet tones the perfect remedy for any early morning pre exam nerves. Then there is always the conversation with your peers – You ready? Yeah no neither am I…. before you get your makeshift plastic pencil case (normally a polypocket you’ve had since first year) ready. I like to get outside the exam room a little earlier- just to calm the nerves. It is also an intriguing opportunity to see how others cope with exams – you have those who cram, those who just sit in silence (clearly didn’t sleep) and those who are excessively loud due to a mix of nerves and anticipation.
Then the exam begins, you wish everyone around you luck and big yourself up before you enter the battle ring (in reality a deathly silent lab or hall). Before you know it you’re out – and it’s all over. I had visions of my final exam finishing with confetti, spontaneous laughing, dancing and fist-bumps. Sadly, it was far more mediocre than that – I was shattered and just mumbled to my friends – Union? We then crossed campus towards the Union, each step realizing I had just completed my last undergraduate exam – a mixture of amazement, accomplishment but mostly exhaustion and relief. That was 4 years worth of hard work for exam over – just like that.
Now I’m on the other side of it all, I realize how all enveloping exams can feel, beforehand there is nothing of greater importance. Afterwards however, you realize that life continues – you still need to do your laundry, washing up and just get your life back together.
I did it, a huge sense of freedom and possibility now surrounds me as I enter the final few months of my undergrad at Imperial. Who knows, maybe I’ll miss the exams, but right now, I don’t ever want to sit a university exam again. I’m free from exams – THANK GOD.