The one thing I can say with certainty about life as a student is that there is no typical day. A first year’s day will be completely different from a third year’s, a classicist’s different from a chemist’s. Every day is different. But here is a brief taster of what a typical day is like for me, as a linguistics student at the University of York.
Morning has broken – unfortunately
I confess, the hour at which my morning breaks is somewhat dependent on the previous night’s activities. In first year, my day typically began at 8.45am. I would pull on my jeans over my pyjamas, grab a bacon sandwich for breakfast and arrive at my lecture at 8.59am, clutching pen, paper and the crumbled remains of the aforementioned bacon roll.
By third year, my mornings resemble some kind of cereal advert. Portioning roasted vegetable couscous into a Tupperware pot, I eat a bowl of granola and yoghurt, before strolling to campus, fresh-faced and ready to start learning. At least, that’s what I look like in my head.
As a linguistics student, contact hours are notoriously limited. But my morning is, nevertheless, interrupted by the occasional lecture or seminar. On many days, my timetable consists of awkward hour-long gaps, in which I ambitiously attempt to prepare for tomorrow’s psycholinguistics seminar, read an article on Jamaican Creole and decide on the topic of my dissertation.
In reality, I scroll through my Facebook newsfeed and wonder whether I should treat myself to some chocolate from the library vending machine.
Let’s do lunch
Following a forensic phonetics lecture and a seminar discussing the cognitive advantages of bilingualism, it’s lunchtime.
Depending on my action-packed timetable, I might pop home for lunch or polish off my couscous on campus. Other days, my lectures are squeezed into a single four-hour block, with no time for lunch or even a toilet break. I sprint from one side of campus to another, stomach rumbling like an air-raid siren, as passers-by dive for shelter.
Like the morning, my afternoon is tastefully dusted with lectures and seminars, rather like two halves of a Victoria sponge, either side of something more enjoyable – lunch. Meanwhile, the timetables of my overworked scientist friends are as dense as a carrot cake, if you’ll pardon the extended simile.
In between my sporadic lectures I spend many an hour alone in my bedroom “independently studying” or tucked into a corner of the library, making notes on how contact with Scandinavia influenced Late Middle English in the 15th century.
Fun, fun, fun
Between essay-writing and relentless reading, I spend my afternoons rehearsing with my ceilidh band, swimming or attending aerobics society (torture, disguised in the form of 1980s dance). My friends and I giggle our way through at the back, bumping into one another like drunken pandas at a roller disco, attempting to compensate for our chip-heavy student diet.
At some point I get on with some chores: perhaps a trip to the supermarket or unblocking the shower drain – a job I find myself doing a disproportionate amount of the time. Note to self: when choosing your housemates, select your shortest-haired friends.
Dance the night away
A typical first-year evening involved dinner in the college canteen, the initial novelty of another evening of chips gradually dwindling. We would return to the flat for various poker nights, trips to the student cinema and, inevitably, plentiful nights out.
In second and third year, a house cooking rota commenced and my housemates and I discuss our days over a garlic bread. We combine the washing up with tea towel fights, loud sing-along sessions and the incentive of a beer and a board game.
Of course, my hipster-esque rose-tinted glasses are foggying the delirium of many late-night proofreading and referencing sessions. But amid the late-night studying, we sporadically swap the caffeine for rum and dance the night away on the kitchen tiles.
As a student, sleep is brief and rated low in importance, apart from the afternoon naps. For some reason many students will regress to an infant's sleeping pattern and will often be found taking afternoon naps.
As they say, “no one looks back on their life and remembers the nights they got plenty of sleep”.* But we eventually go to bed, before waking up to a new day, which will no doubt be different from the last.
*Disclaimer: the importance of sleep should not be completely overlooked – it is actually quite important for staying alive.
Read more: A day in the life of a UK university student