Thursday, 26 December 2013

The term that was

Thought that I better get round to publishing this, this side of the New Year!
Ok, I'll admit, I'm lucky enough to live somewhere where everyday looks like the front of a postcard.

I love living somewhere where the seasons change. Where you can mark the passage of time in all of the things you see each day, trees, a lake, an orchard. Strange to think I'll never get last year back again, when it was my first term, and everything seemed so new, so exciting, but also so daunting. I don't miss that at all. Going back to college this year felt like going "home", rather than to some strange, exotic, unknowable place.
This is the face of a Pumpkin Champion. No joke, me and my friends actually won the college pumpkin-carving contest with him. For three days or so it glared out of our kitchen window, just to brighten people's nights.

Forget the fancy dinners, evenings out and Christmas parties. One of my favourite things about the last term has been living on a corridor with a kitchen (we didn't have kitchens in our first year!). It's made so much difference to the social-ness of my day. I think we all benefit from having breakfast together, even if the conversation means take twice as long as it does for us to prepare and eat the food!
How I thought last term would be...
So just to be clear, I thought this term might be slightly challenging. For once, this wasn't due to the work, but the fact that I was trying to balance a couple of time-consuming extra-curricular activities, AND eat, AND sleep. I suppose I also allocate a fair amount of time to seeing can't live the life of a hermit-crab throughout your university years!

So I thought I knew what I was getting into. I'd even written the amount of hours that I expected each activity to take (per week) on a scrap of paper, just to check that it was physically possible.

I was wrong.

I guess in the end I forgot to factor in several important variables;

1. As term goes on you need more sleep to continue, fact.
2. Unexpected social events, e.g. Bonfire night, people's birthdays, charity events, pop up every week or so (ok, not Bonfire night, but the others, yes) and they are always very, very tempting.
3. You never quite get through your work as efficiently as you plan too... (I handed in 1 piece of work late this term, and all of the others were literally on their deadlines. I am writing this in public to shame myself into not doing that again...)
4. The good old "can you help me out" dilemma, in which people you know need "just a couple of hours" of your help in running an event, returning library books, buying the communal Christmas presents for the staff you work with etc. This always takes more time than expected, and you don't tend to think about these things in advance as they're beyond your control.
How last term actually felt...
Stuff I was trying to balance;

- work (ok, so we get set a lot of work. I try to work around 6 hours a day when I'm at uni)
- the obvious, eating, sleeping, social life
- being on the Student Council for my college (helping to run events, meetings both council-only and college-wide)
- being Student Union represent for the college (going to extra meetings outside of college, keeping up with university-wide elections)
- being a Sub-editor for one of the major student newspapers
- volunteering with a group of local school students, as part of the university's Access & Outreach programme

In addition, I also helped with Fresher's Week (see last post) and stayed behind a week after term officially ended, to help out with the candidates called to interview.

I mean, I don't regret any of it. University is the time to try new things, and learn stuff when they don't all work out. Plus, this is the advantage of 1st & 2nd year, if a single piece of work is late throughout the entire term, the world won't end (or if it does, it's a coincidence). I doubt I'll be doing Fresher's Week or the Interview period again (they're linked to the fact that I was elected to the Student Council for this year) but they were a fantastic opportunity to welcome new students into the College, and something very few students get to take part in.

In addition, I'm not doing the Sub-editing again next term, last term the editing deadline clashed with my essay deadline every week, and I felt my eyes turning physically square after reading all of the copy, then having to come home to my half-finished essay. This also resulted in some very late nights, and in all honesty I can't say that I've produced my best work this term, due to all of this extra stuff on the side-lines, competing for my attention.

Now I'm home and I can evaluate things, and appreciate all that I did, too. It's been great to get home and rest up a bit, when I was in college I was constantly running from one activity to the next, snacking as I went because I'd missed some of the conventional meal times. When I wasn't running I was trying desperately to cram work.

Yet, the stuff I did last term has added so much to my experience of life. I'm better at reading, editing, grammar-fixing, time organisation and being able to condense lengthy material. Not to mention, I have my name at the bottom of all of last term's newspapers, which is a bit of an ego-boost! Next term I think I'll aim to do a little bit less, and maybe a few more different things too. I think I might help out at some local museum events, because I loved my time working in the Navy Yard museum in D.C, and I'm living in a city which has to have the most museums outside of London, I'd say. Volunteering remains the most satisfying thing I do with my time outside of studying, and it'll probably always be that way, even if it's stressful at times.

My advice for all university students....

  1. Try new things, outside of studying, could be useful for future, could just be for fun. Or potentially both...
  2. Try and plan for these new activities, and see how many hours they'll take up a week, which nights are the most suitable etc.
  3. Realise that trying to plan all of this stuff, and account for the unexpected, is impossible.
  4. Rather than giving up, try new things anyway, and work out the plan as you go along, within reason, and adjust as you go. What could possibly go wrong?

I've met new people, learnt more than ever (what I've written in this post doesn't even begin to cover the amount of material regarding Britain 1500-1700, which I was officially meant to be studying), and most importantly of all, I'm actually excited to go back. Ok, moving in will require effort, and I have a lot of prep work for next term to complete, and a mock-exam to revise for, but aside from that, I feel pretty sorted for the term ahead...