Ah, final year: the time when dissertations creep up on you, essays seems just that bit more important, and you realise that university is in fact nearing its end. Or if you’re me, you procrastinate from revision by watching fictional characters stress about their final semester to distract from your own stress – the fictional characters in question being the cast of Channel 4’s university comedy Fresh Meat. Running from 2012 to 2016, the show follows six university students at the fictional Manchester Medlock University, detailing the joys, trials, and madness of living in a shared house. The show was always over the top and a bit ridiculous, and yet, despite that, its final series actually manage to capture some of the unique experiences that come with being a final year.
Go hard before you go home
As the months left at uni slowly decrease, you hit the point where you just think ‘YOLO’ and try to spend as much time having as much fun as humanly possible. In Fresh Meat, this manifests itself in the first episode of the final season in which JP tries to plan a final blowout before the reality of adult life hits, as well as in the last episode in which the gang host Grad Ball in their own home for the sake of having a cracking party. Southampton house parties may not be quite so intense, but the motives for having them are very much there. One friend said to me that some weeks this year he has spent more drunk than sober – but doesn’t that just sum up uni culture? Although by final year, the bright lights of Jesters don’t quite cover up how grim it is, it still is filled to the brim with older students trying to relish the last times they get to experience the ‘Palace of Dreams’.
Working out what to do next
There’s a moment quite early on in the season where the gang spend time talking to career advisors, and realise that actually, they don’t quite know what to do when this uni malarkey is over for good. It continues as a theme throughout the rest of the season, and though each of them go through different experiences, each one is something that is all too familiar. There’s Howard, who knows his dream job, but just has to actually get it. That involves navigating through new places, stepping out of his comfort zone, and also working out how to remain confident when you’re just starting out. There’s Kingsley, whose dreams of going into radio involve intense competition, rejection, and the reality that a lot of internships are, unfortunately, unpaid. There’s Oregon, who goes with that classic route of pursuing a masters, but of course that means having to do the whole uni application process all over again. Then there’s JP, who has a job lined up for him by his brother, but wants to explore other options and work out what it is that he truly, passionately wants to do with his life. As I said, all of these are different experiences, but they all capture the same thoughts: fear of rejection and not being good enough for a job; worry that you’ll end up in the wrong place; and the reluctance to let go of the safety net provided by education. And they capture these feelings well, with humour, yes, but also with sensitivity and empathy.
Both loving and hating your dissertation
Is there a scene as both wonderfully and terrifyingly relatable as Vod reading her dissertation again and again until the point where she nearly runs away instead of handing it in? For most students, the final year project or dissertation becomes their baby – so much time and effort goes in to it (or at least should go in to it), and by the time it’s completed, you’re probably either going to want to frame it or throw it in the trash. Maybe both at the same time! It’s one of those things that is just built up so much during your time at university and you want it to be perfect, but of course, your judgement can’t help but get clouded when you’ve reread it as many times as you will end up doing. Remember, it can never be bad enough to run away to West Wittering and join an anarchist commune.
Trying to figure out your relationships
Let’s be honest, unless you came to uni with a beau back home, there’s a high chance that you were hoping to meet the love of your life here – or at least a long term boyfriend/girlfriend. When you get to those last few months though, when you know that soon you’ll all be dispersing to different parts of the country, it seems to become critical to define all the relationships in your life. You don’t want to miss your chances and spend the time thinking ‘what if?’, but you also don’t want to jump into anything for the sake of it, unless you’re brave enough to give long distance a shot. It’s also the point where you begin to work out which of your friends have been the true ones all along, and who are the people that you’ll actually want to put the effort into staying in touch with once you leave. Maybe you’ll actually change your mind about some people too – like Josie, who realises that the posh twat she slept with on her very first night at uni is quite alright actually.
Wandering whether it was worth it
When Kingsley is entrusted with trying to convince his older girlfriend’s teenage son Luca to go to university, he and the gang find the situation backfiring, and they all end up wandering whether doing a degree was the right thing all along. Of course, there are lot of things about uni that do seem off-putting – the neverending debt, the fact that you’ll probably end up in a sector wholly different from your degree, the lack of graduate jobs… And yet, there must be a reason that you chose to be here right now? As you get to the end of it all, an existential crisis is perfectly normal, but I’m sure that if you look around you, you’ll find those reminders of what makes this uni thing so great. Chances are, those reminders will come in the form of people, experiences and memories that you’re not going to be forgetting any time soon.
Not wanting it to be over
Most students reach the end of their 3 or 4 years (or 5 if you’re a medic #suckstobeyou) and realise that they are so so done with the studying thing. I know I’ve certainly reached that point. However, at the same time, although you’re ready for it to be done, you’re also nowhere near ready to say goodbye. The friends you’ve made, the city that’s come to be a second home, those random little habits you have (like SUSU cafe breakfasts on a Monday morning, or taking a stroll in Valley Gardens as soon as the sun’s out), they’ve all become very staple parts of your life and coming to the realisation that you have to let them go is heartbreaking. Perhaps, like Howard, you’ll try and convince everyone to move to the same place as you so that it doesn’t really feel over. Or like Josie, you’ll desperately try and find new friends that resemble your old ones. Whatever the coping mechanism is, you have to admit that you definitely have one.
All of these things are of course romanticised and exaggerated for the screen, and yet, when watching the final season of Fresh Meat, I feel a deep connection with these characters and the way that the writers detail these final moments. If you’re a final year and are looking for a distraction from revision stress, this will be one that makes you laugh and cry in equal measures, and will give you that little boost to get through to the end of the semester.