The fun part

Over the past week, I’ve been forced to put up with hordes of rowdy students traipsing up and down my street. Their conversations can be heard from my bedroom; they are often drunk, and they are always loud. They move in large groups, to and from gigs and pubs, at all hours of the day and night. I commend them.

While it’s vital to attend all your lectures, and read all your readings, and start your assignments early, it’s also vital to have fun. It’s normal to feel nervous about the start of uni. Just don’t let that nervousness stop you from having a good time. 

Go out. Do something silly. It’s an integral part of being a student.


Getting what you’ve paid for

Remember the money. As you head to campus for your first days at uni, you should feel excited, motivated and nervous. That’s all good, and totally normal. Just don’t let stinginess pass you by. Don’t forget how much you’re paying to be here. Your uni will have a lot of useful services available to help you adjust to this new environment – essay writing courses, library tours, campus orientations. Sign up for everything. Remember that every ‘free’ service offered by your uni is actually a service that you’ve paid for as part of your course costs.

It’s important to have fun at uni, especially in your first days. Just don’t forget the investment that you (or someone who has a lot of faith in you) has made for you to be here. Uni is rewarding, challenging and a lot of fun. It’s also expensive; make sure that you get what you’ve paid for.

Getting lost

This week The Christchurch Press ran an extract from my book in the ‘Good Living’ section. In the extract, I talk about my first day on campus – namely, the fact that it didn’t go that well. I get lost, feel stupid, and go home feeling like a bit of a wannabe. I fail my very first assignment: looking and feeling like a relaxed, on-to-it uni student.

As this year’s clutch of new students make their first tentative steps on campus, a lot of them will feel the same way that I did. They’ll be the ones who don’t know anyone else there, who are totally knew to the whole uni thing, and who aren’t good with directions at the best of times. Like me, they’ll probably go home and have a few doubts about their enrolment. They’ll return with a map and gradually chip away at it until they can get to and fro between all the necessary areas without looking like a new kid.

Other students, though, won’t have a problem. They will be the sort of people who are blessed with strong navigational skills, who have a safe set of friends to explore with, and who are used to big buildings and loads of people.

All students are different – that’s one of the joys of being at uni. No matter how you feel on your first day at campus, keep in mind that in a few weeks this huge new place will be your new neighbourhood. In time, you’ll know those lecture theatres, offices and courtyards as well as you knew the suburb you grew up in. So, before your lectures kick off, head to campus and spend a day exploring your new territory.

Not long now…

The start of the uni year is almost upon us! It’s a great time of year – vibrant, exciting, full of new challenge and possibility. You have all the fun of looking forward to orientation and starting your study, without any of the stress of actual assignments and time pressure.

Enjoy it. Your primary goal for this week should be to get into the vibe of things. Sort yourself out with a laptop. Get the stationery bits that you need. Set up your study space. Clear the bookshelves for the imminent onslaught of academic literature. Buy yourself a nice bag to carry your books about in.

Take part in orientation. The whole point of orientation is to help you adjust to the student lifestyle. So while that means a bit of admin and a lot of info, it also means a heap of fun. Check out the gigs and stalls and clubs. Explore. Head to campus and get lost. Sample some of the cafes and bars. Spot the other first-years, and remind yourself that you’re all in it together.

No matter what you’ve been up to over summer, now’s the time to start thinking like a student. Your new job is about to start.

Release week

Well, this is it – the week that BA: An Insider’s Guide is finally unleashed on the public. After having worked so hard on this project, it’s a surreal feeling to see it reach this point. By the end of the week, all of the chapters that I’ve spent so long putting together will be available for other people to read. Then, finally, those chapters can start fulfilling their purpose: to help NZ students enjoy and excel at their BAs.

Last week, I donated a pre-release copy of An Insider’s Guide to the library of the high school that I teach at. The librarian took the book and thanked me. Then she saw my name on the front cover and squealed. “It’s you! That’s amazing!”

There is something amazing about publishing a book. It’s not the recognition. It’s not about seeing your name in print (although that is nice). What makes it awesome is the fact that it’s bloody difficult to do. It requires a lot of perseverance, adaptability and – if I’m honest – a decent amount of arrogance. In order for a publisher to put their confidence in you, you have to believe that your ideas are cool, that your writing is good, that the whole concept is a winner.

Then, once you’ve finally convinced a publisher that your book is worth investing in, you have to let them convince you how it could be better. You have to let them scour your pages for mistakes, inconsistencies and patches of fuzziness. You have to listen when they tell you that you sound prudish or try-hard or nasty. You have to rethink when they tell you that the layout doesn’t work, or the title isn’t catchy, or your best story just isn’t relevant. To publish a book you have to be a paradox: humbly arrogant, confidently unsure,  a servant with authority.

I’ve learnt how to laugh at myself. As in, really laugh. What else can you do when your editor tells you that the chapter title ‘Dominate Exams’ inspires mental pictures of leather-clad nerds? Or when they say that your assurance that ‘I can teach you many things’ sounds inexplicably creepy? Or that the paragraph you spent two hours getting just right is over-written and unnecessary?

I’m incredibly grateful to have a publication team who have been able to laugh alongside me. While they’ve dealt me some tough advice, it’s never been personal. It’s only ever been about creating the best product for my readers. And I’m totally convinced that by our powers combined, we have done just that.

The book that you’ll see in the stores this week is the product of a four-year journey. It started one hot afternoon in a COMS lecture, when I decided to jot down a couple of tips for some of my struggling classmates. From there to here, with the help of a lot of people, laptops and late nights, that small list of tips has turned into a book. On the eve of its release, I want to wish that book good luck on the next stage of its journey. From here on it’s no longer about me and my book, it’s about an awesome study guide and a whole country full of new BA students.

Goodbye, book; hello, readers.