Starting a blog on university life at Christmas time does feel slightly jarring, writing outside of my natural habitat. Nevertheless, the holidays seem as good a place as any to discuss the full-time nature of the course.
I had a dream today that one day I will do nothing but dream. I had a lot of time today actually, both to dream and to massacre the famous speeches of civil rights activists. A common assumption about university is that it is an easy life, and - with my term having ended at the beginning of December - I can sympathise with this.
A term that finishes so long before Christmas and does not start anew before the 18th of January hardly screams full time, and even if Cambridge is extreme with lengthy holidays, it is understandable why students acquire the tag of laziness. Six weeks holiday for every eight weeks of work merits that.
But then that does depend on how work is measured. I've been home for over two weeks now and am still absolutely knackered, just thankful that I don't have other work arranged for this time so that I can catch up on sleep. And that tiredness does come down to the work effort put in.
Studies this last term has been slightly different for me because the focus has been one long rather than eight smaller essays, but recently (excluding lectures) I have read over sixty books and journals, trawled through fifty-four months worth of newspaper editions, written three pads of paper of notes, and typed up around 12,000 words. That isn't meant to be bragging, quite the opposite. A workload like that is fairly typical in history, a subject that is seen as one of the dossier ones within the university.
Yet, even this is an intense amount of work to cram in to such a short space of time, and some rest is needed after a while to ensure that you're not dead on your feet by the time you are thrust back into the gauntlet of work. If anything, it just makes you appreciate whatever chance you get to recharge your energy and relax, which in itself is a nice lesson for life.
Which brings me back to another assumption - that, like most rungs on the educational ladder, university is a stepping stone towards working life. I've been fortunate enough in the last couple of years to hold 'office' jobs during summer holidays, living the 9-5 lifestyle, and I can't say that these positions have been a step up in terms or required skills (although obviously this doesn't mean to say that this is a uniform rule).
However, despite the different approach, the basic attitude is still the same as at university. As a student, you academically pummel yourself while counting down the days to respite; a dominant feature of the working week is looking forward to not having to get up and go in at weekends (again not assumed to mean everybody, just many).
So perhaps that is the most important lesson to learn as a student. Learn to know when you can get away with sleeping and work towards that, and everything else will fall into place around it. It seems a simple point, but is easy to see both when people get it right and when it goes spectacularly wrong.
There are presumably other aspects of university life that make the incoming £9,000 tuition fees reasonable and justifiable but past the idea of sleep, everything else just becomes the stuff of dreams.
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