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How your degree is just like Star Wars

28th August 2012

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As a student about to enter their third year, and more importantly as a film fanatic, I couldn’t help but reflect on my first two years and compare my experiences to a movie trilogy. The first year was that establishing piece, setting the scene with adventurous exploits and naïve excitement. Then comes the darker, more sinister second year, as the second film is always more demanding on the protagonist and comes with a game-changing plot device. And finally the third year, the most demanding year of your degree yet, due to your dissertation. 

Star Wars

The final chapter of a trilogy always has the biggest battles but is more upbeat than its predecessor, as the good guys will ultimately overcome the adversity.

Making this comparison automatically made me consider Star Wars, as whenever anyone says trilogy it should be the default decision to look back to Luke Skywalker and his actions across a galaxy far, far away. When you think of your time at university, it is impossible not to see the similarities.

Think back to your first day. It is a period of conflicting emotions. You’ve moved away from home and left a comfortable life behind. Your closest friends are scattered across the country, your family won’t see you until Christmas and the only recipe you know is beans on toast. But, as you unpack your DVD collection and attempt to establish a bond with your new flatmates, you realise what a great opportunity this is. You will learn new things, meet new people and try new activities. You’ll explore a new city and discover new things about yourself. This is a new hope.

Visiting your SU bar for the first time, you may think to yourself that you’ve never seen "a more wretched hive of scum and villainy" and begin to question why you started your quest. Some hangovers will feel so rough your head will feel like it is being crushed in the Death Star garbage compactor. But you’ll meet new friends ( and some questionable characters of course) but it is all part of your journey. Persevere through your first year. Receiving your results, you and your new friends will celebrate together triumphantly, as if you have done it all and put the struggle behind you. This naivety will wear off soon enough, as you realise that the struggle has really just begun.

Luke may have destroyed the Death Star but remember, they soon built another one. Your first year is like that because even if you did get firsts in all your modules, that won’t mean anything when you’re working on your dissertation two years later. It doesn’t really matter how well you did, they’re just going to set the bar a bit higher for you when you return next year. That’s when the university strikes back.

 So you thought you’d mastered university because you passed your first year? How quaint. Second year will push you and make you question the things you thought you had learned all about in first year. It may not be as dramatic as finding out your arch-nemesis is your dad but still, realising you really know nothing is quite daunting.

The Empire Strikes Back provided us with game-changing story arcs, such as the awkward Skywalker family reunion, as well as the evolving love story between Han Solo and Princess Leia. These developments go unresolved at the end of the film and point towards an epic conclusion in the foreseeable future. Your second year, in typical sequel style, also hints towards something sinister. It’s something which will play a big part in the final chapter of the trilogy, something which has a significant effect on the story. I am of course talking about your dissertation. It is an intimidating task but this is when it’s time for the return of the enthusiastic student.

In Return of the Jedi the main plot may be Luke vs. Vader but without a victory on the Forest Moon of Endor, the Rebels cause would all be in vain. The moral is, even if your dissertation is prioritised for your degree, without the effort going in to all of your other modules as well then the battle is lost. Even with an amazing dissertation, you need to have a strong foothold elsewhere for it to make an impact overall.

I haven’t started my third year yet and I wouldn’t want to risk extending the metaphor further than I already have, but I hope that feel-good factor at the end of an epic trilogy comes to fruition for every third year student across the country. This time, there will be no coming back for the Empire – unless you take on a Masters course…


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