The Fourth Needle of a Three-Pronged Trident

by Alex Doug Johnson


As I write this, my past, present and future all lie entangled in the quirky and often uneasy position of being in a fourth year of BA European Studies, having hopefully just completed an EU Law course from the 2nd year with three or four other fourth year lingerers. Now I’m returning home to London for the weekend. Naturally, when I booked this I was unaware of the graduation ceremony that was to take place for the European Studies class of 2014-2017 – my friends, colleagues and co-conspirators in many a heated PBL debate. The last time that my fellow students will all be in one place at one time for the rest of our lives. It is a moment of sorrow which prompted me to commit these thoughts to a blank computer screen in the nether zone between security and departure at Köln-Bonn Airport. However, I still don’t feel a shred of regret for making the decision to delay my study and commit to a fourth year. With any luck, after reading this, many people who were considering this option will feel more informed and able to make the decision that is correct for them. Enough of this rambling, let’s unravel the implications of taking an extra year for a three-year bachelor.

Should you choose to take this option, the best advice is to make the decision early enough to allow yourself a chance to properly max out on the opportunities that will lay themselves at your feet. I myself made this decision early in my second year. This has allowed me to focus more on the studies that I chose to take without the added time pressure to finish the others before a deadline. You also find more time to earn fulfilment elsewhere during what is a very condensed stint in your life as a young student. For example, you can find gainful employment opportunities if financial issues hit or take up hobbies that you otherwise wouldn’t have time for. This is an invaluable part of a university education which is so often neglected in the high-pressure Bachelor degrees that many of us are, to some extent, constricted by. What hobby can one really take up when they finish an exam on a Tuesday but have a deadline on the Friday and a new course starting on the Monday?

It can often feel as though time will never present itself to satisfy other ambitions. It isn’t all positive. As previously hinted during the opening rant, there is a sense of gridlock as you see your friends moving on with their lives to varying degrees of success, but at the very least some form of progression. Meanwhile you stagger on with a life that is now all too familiar. Student life can become monotonous should you not press refresh on your keyboard occasionally. This is especially true when you are concluding courses designed to accompany courses you finished 2 years ago. How long can one live constantly scratching around for loose change like a well- dressed homeless person? How long can one drink on the weekend with the hangovers slowly worsening every Monday? How long can one not spend sufficient time with your families as you continue to dwell abroad? If this type of issue concerns you, then should fourth year come for you be sure to keep your routines fresh and take up new hobbies or travel home more when you have a free weekend. To quote Trainspotting, I suggest that you “choose life” rather than refusing to put on trousers and watch television during your rare commitment free 72 hours.

At the end of the day, the decision is yours to make. Nobody knows your situation better than you and if anybody claims to then have the guts to tell them otherwise. Success!

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