We all know the stereotype. Students are lazy, good-for-nothing deadbeats, who do nothing but nap all day and party all night. Right? Actually, I think you'll find that for many of us, the reality is something quite different.
I'm a second year student at the University of Exeter, and I can honestly say I believe that the majority of my peers work at least as hard, if not harder than some adults in full-time employment. I currently have ten and a half contact hours at university per week, and whilst this may not sound like a lot, it masks the true nature of what it is like to study at university.
On top of these contact hours, I am also on committee for two societies, heavily involved in student media and have a keen interest in student politics. A typical week for me, then, will consist of studying for my degree, organizing reporters and teamsheets for the Sport section of the university paper, Exeposé, planning and risk assessing for socials, attending debates and talks both by students and politicians, broadcasting my weekly radio show, cooking, cleaning and playing sport. Not so much time for a nap then.
Don't get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy every aspect of this weekly plethora of activities, and fully intend to continue to throw myself into opportunities that come my way. University is a fantastic chance to explore and investigate new and exciting ventures; I certainly never thought I would be able to host my own radio show or edit a section of the student newspaper when arriving in Exeter in 2013.
However, there are times when the strain of a hectic lifestyle can become too much. Deadlines loom, secondary reading piles up and the shower still needs cleaning. Yet students are still increasingly portrayed as 'having it easy' when it comes to the real world. Its true we don't pay taxes (yet), and we do have more flexibility than your average commuters. However, the major difference between a student such as myself and say, an economist like my brother, is that come 5pm, he gets to leave the office, come home and relax. Students don't have this luxury. I regularly find myself working late into the night (particularly on press days) and on weekends too. Its hard to 'switch off' as a student, and this often leads to long nights awake, worrying about our workload.
I cannot help but feel that the university lifestyle, whilst incredible, exciting and thoroughly enjoyable, is hugely detrimental to the physical and mental wellbeing of students. For many of us, making that 9am start isn't a struggle because we've been out clubbing and drank a skin-full, it's a struggle because we've been up all night working on essays, reading for seminars and fulfilling our extra-curricular roles. I'm already dreading next year, when stress about my future career will inevitably be added to my vastly growing set of concerns keeping me awake at night...
Without trying to come across as a whiny student, complaining about how hard their life is, I simply want to dispel the myth that students are fundamentally lazy creatures. Many of us work extremely hard, and yet get tarnished by a broad and inaccurate stereotype. It's time to put to rest the idea that students spend most of their time idle, and encourage the view of students as active, engaged and important members of our community, striving to make a difference.
Anyway, enough talk, I'm off for a nap...