It's Easter Sunday, and I am sitting in a room without windows and functioning air conditioning. Why am I here? Why am I not with my family, or at the very least, in a place where I can see the outside world?
There's a surprisingly easy answer- I was late with my coursework. You've all heard the classic tale. Student receives work, student neglects work, student ends up missing out on major holidays to complete said work. Is achieving a work/life balance really that hard, or is student culture just setting us all up to be lazy?
Modern student culture in the UK is based around one thing, and one thing alone- drinking. It's ingrained into students the moment they step onto campus for the first time, with a week of celebrations and revelry that's actively encouraged by every university in the country.
TV shows and films like Fresh Meat regularly use storylines where the student character has gotten themselves into a bind because they were drunk last night, or right now, or will be soon.
Let's be honest here- hangovers are bad. They are the ultimate bane of any morning, and sometimes even the entire day if you've been drinking enough. You won't run a marathon on a hangover. The 'I was too hungover' excuse is one that I, and almost every other student in the country, has used again and again to get out of doing something we didn't want to do anyway. It's the little brother to calling in sick.
Some people think students are lazy, that we just don't care, and as one person put it to me, 'riding the coattails of tax-payer's money' until we're finally forced to leave, degree in hand (or not, as is the case for some). In some way, its true.
But then again, students have to deal with the merciless timetabling of their university. As a postgraduate student I had 25 hours of contacts hours a week, many of which were spent in the same windowless room I spent my Easter in.
And then you also have to factor in the possibility of having to get a part time job. Do universities do enough to help those who need to give up time to pay for their rent, or just basic necessities? Over the course of the last three and a half years I've been a student, I've worked on and off.
Believe me, it's never a fun conversation when you have to explain to your manager yet again why you need to change your contracted hours. And even if you just work weekends, you're certainly pushed for time towards the end of the year when exams and dissertations have reared their heads.
There are some things universities could do to make life slightly easier for those who, y'know, actually have to earn a living too. For example, the timetables for module choices be published at the same time you choose them so students know exactly when they can and cannot attend. I know many friends who have had to juggle work and studying, and some who have had to withdraw from dream modules, and sometimes even their entire course, because they couldn't match it up with work.
One part of the problem comes down to the system student loans are based on- just because your parents earn over an arbitrary amount per year, doesn't mean they're in a position to pay your way through your studies. The 'student runs out of their loan within a week' scenario is a classic image, but when 18-year-olds are released into the world with almost zero financial education, what do you expect?
Whether it's just laziness, or a case of universities expecting too much of their students, one thing's for sure- national holidays, for many students, do not mean a break.