Perfect attendance has never been my forte: due to a frightfully weak immune system a lack thereof characterised much of my early scholastic career. First year was spent largely at home with various illnesses and lethargy justified by the fact that it simply ‘didn’t count’ toward the final degree. Second year did count, so next semester, things would be different.
However, with a boyfriend on a year-long Erasmus and cheap flights to Stockholm, the appeal of foreign shores and free accommodation significantly outweighed the allure of the Golden Semester (in other words, going the entire semester without missing one lecture for those of you reading this who have been living under a rock throughout college). “You’ve got one more year,” I assured myself: Next semester things would definitely be different.
I arrived on campus in September, unwavering in the belief that this semester, I would boldly go where no student had gone before. Well, none that I personally knew of: I was aware of one or two students who had yet to achieve a Golden Week in three years at UCD.
The first four weeks of term seemed to pass without much stress or incident. Every morning the alarm would ring and I would refrain from smashing my hand down on the snooze button. I actually enjoyed making my way to college every day and even found myself becoming involved in college-related activities for the first time.
In first year, when I actually had an extortionate amount of free time for them, extra-curricular activities had consciously been banished to the realm of my secondary school debating days. In final year, when time was sparse, I proved determined to allocate myself as much surplus work as possible. This appeared to work in my favour when attempting the Golden Semester: it transpired that the numerous commitments I felt compelled to fulfil ultimately encouraged me to attend college.
The first threat to my Golden Semester came in the form of the cancellation of the number 10 bus; getting to UCD from the Northside seemed far more inconvenient when I was required to actually walk from the Stillorgan dual carriageway. I valiantly soldiered on despite this drastically demoralising development, attending class after class whilst dividing my time between the newspaper office, the radio station and the library.
My determination to attend class seemed to be accompanied by an obsessive need to withdraw so many books that my UCD library account was continuously stretched to its full capacity: asking your boyfriend to withdraw books for you really brings a whole new dimension to a relationship. If I had perhaps been half as resolute to read as I had been to attend classes, those books would even probably have proven useful.
By week six the effects of early mornings and late nights had begun to set in and to make matters worse, reading week had been pushed back to week seven. My carefully constructed schedule for the semester had not been adhered to and essay due dates loomed ever closer. The news that I actually had to formulate my own titles for a project, whilst simultaneously navigating through a sea of materials handed out by another kind-hearted yet almost incomprehensible lecturer, did not serve to calm my nerves.
However, despite the fatigue and occasional internal fracas, I still felt a strange determination to carry on: in other words, I was plain stubborn. Reading week provided some respite and relief, with the submission of essays allowing me to feel as though some share of the burden had been lifted.
My 21st birthday fell in week eight. I was incensed at being required to attend college on my birthday, having always been afforded the luxury of a bank holiday weekend or mid-term birthday in the academic calendar. My friends assured me that this was one day that I was entitled to spend at home: I chose not to listen.
Week eight rapidly became week nine, as I burrowed beneath a monstrous mound of books, essays and articles. I soon swiftly found myself in week ten, with my perfect attendance intact. Week eleven arrived and with it an illness which threatened to derail the Golden Semester.
Yet determination, or rather delirium and copious doses of paracetamol, pushed me toward week twelve. With two days to go, the head-cold had developed into a full-blown dose of flu. Nevertheless, I dragged myself into class through the snow, rather unsure as to how I would survive the wintery week. Miraculously, on Wednesday the snow forced UCD to shut its doors and my Golden Semester was achieved.
Twelve weeks of class later, I developed a much deeper appreciation for the December holidays, even if they were slightly marred by the postponed exams. Yet I also noted how seamlessly the semester had passed after the first few weeks and simultaneously discovered a new affection for UCD. Could a surprisingly enjoyable Golden Semester lead to a Golden Year? Who knows? Semester two could be totally different.