Connor Gormley Small

How to burst the student bubble


It’s a bit of a cliché to say that students live in a bubble, I know. But, well, it’s probably true. If you really think about it, we sort of do.

We spend most of our time in our heads, thinking about why Louis XVI probably didn’t help stop that whole French Revolution thing, or about why zero may or may not be an actual concept, or why actually turning up to lessons is so hard when Netflix exists. And, if we’re not spending time with ourselves like the rampant narcissists we invariably are (and don’t lie, we are), then we’re probably spending time with people who are pretty similar to us.

Unlike other, real people, who do other, real things, we students are basically drawn from the same stock. We’re all young, we’ve got an affection for free food, we’re passionately devoted to the internet and most of us quite like Game of Thrones. That’s good. That’s definitely good.

Friends At School

Everything good that’s ever been achieved was achieved as part of a group. F. Scott Fitzgerald couldn’t have written The Great Gatsby without all of his Lost Generation buddies about and, similarly, having a whole bunch of other students to turn to for help makes the whole act of writing coursework much easier.

There’s some value, though, to broadening those horizons a little.

Because, as comforting as the academic bubble might be, the world is a huge place, an exciting place and, as scary as it might seem, it’s rammed with cool stuff. Cool stuff you should go and try. It was with that bubble in mind that I started Brazilian Jiu Jitsu a few months ago. If you don’t know what it is, BJJ is a martial art all about grappling; it’s an intricate system of chokes, armlocks, leglocks, strangles and takedowns.

In any given bout, the aim is to control your opponent’s mass, to stop their attempts to submit you and successfully enact your own. Starting it was a bit of a stretch. As my profile picture probably tells you, I have all the muscle mass of a bowl of Cheerios and I’m generally pretty bad. Terrible even. I find not getting strangled so difficult that my brain is now permanently starved for oxygen. 

But it’s been worth it, and not just because of the raw, visceral thrill of pretending to fight people in my pyjamas. It’s because it’s served as a really cool platform for meeting new people, people my studies don’t usually let me meet. It’s a touchstone for social interaction, through which I’ve met cool, humble, largely hardworking and genuine human beings; people older than me, younger than me, people working jobs I didn’t know you could do, people more into sports than I ever thought you could be. Different people. People I don’t usually get to talk to.

Jiu Jiutsu

Like everything else, starting Jiu-Jitsu has served as a really cool, physical platform for expanding my circle of friends. And expanding that circle, however you do it, is an invariably good thing because it bleeds out into your wider life. It’s a pleasant reminder that people are just people, and that they’re easier to get along with than you might think.

More than that, it’s thrilling to have something new to– prepare yourself for the inevitable pun– grapple with. If you’re a student, you probably really like learning. As in, you really like it. You like it so much you spend most of your time doing it. You like it so much you’re named after it. You’re a student. Going out and doing new things is a really cool way of continuing to do that, and of assuring yourself that you’re smarter, more confident and more capable than you think. It’s a challenge, and rising up to it is always cool.

So yeah. Maybe if, with summer here, you’ve found yourself at a bit of a loose end, if you’re not quite sure what to do with all this free time take the chance to try something new. It doesn’t have to involve being pretend strangled by someone with more muscles then you, but it might involve something you’ve always been interested in but have denied yourself. Cricket, painting, mountain biking, making model trains. I don’t know and it doesn’t matter.

Just give something, anything, a go. Who knows? Maybe you’ll learn something.