Written by Josef Ashley
Choosing between a dark room in the back of a pub filled with naked models in repose behind a waiting canvas and a night of essay writing should be an easy choice. Should.
Indeed, if you believe all the propaganda pushed by the nightclub marketing teams and that one very loud member of your family who loudly exclaims ‘university was one long party; just sex, alcohol and loud music all night!’ then you might add two and two together and get ‘boring’ when thinking about your subdued night.
The sad truth with university is that you’ll have a hell of a lot of work to do. Fresher’s week is the obvious exception. Here, you can have as much sex, alcohol and loud music as you can stomach – then you’re sick and can start all over again! Hoorah! But come the dreary start of October, work truly begins. And the worst part?
You’ve only got yourself to blame – you chose this course, you picked this university and you left this thousand word write up to the night-before. Sorry.
I was lucky when I started university, having stayed at college for a third year, all my friends went to university without me – desperately sad at the time but now tremendously helpful. I had the benefit of their forethought – and all the mistakes they made. I knew from the off that I had to pack as much fun as I wanted to have in those first two weeks because now, suddenly four weeks in and no idea how I got here, I’m choosing finishing a late essay over a life drawing class.
This is all coming from someone who once dreamed of being an artist, came scarily close to becoming a Food Scientist in A Level Chemistry and has now fallen happily, albeit confusedly, into a Creative Writing Degree. Suffice to say my priorities aren’t always perfectly aligned, and like most university students the abundant free Wi-Fi can make it easy for my mind to…wander.
With that in mind, if I’m choosing to get on with work over doing something fun (e.g. eating whole packets of biscuits and watching entire series), then the work must be hard.
But, actually, is it? Is it really that hard? Is there really that much of it? A glorious bottle of Belvedere Vodka would look quite large in a sink, but I know from experience it looks much smaller in a bath. Don’t ask. So maybe it’s the time we squeeze these assignments, these essays and write ups, these reading lists and anthologies in to that makes them appear large.
Put your essays into a bath. Not literally, no, I’ll save that kind of desperation for a blog-post in your third year – ‘Dissertation Writing in the Bath – A Guide for the Insane and Insomniac’. No, put your essays metaphorically into a bath – submerge them into the enormity of your week and show yourself that these are only small problems, made smaller still by being broken up slowly over a week.
I realised all this when pressing first-year-veteran friends for their tips about staying on top of work while I was researching this article. All their advice was brilliant, and you really should listen to your elders, but as I typed it out, it became apparent that all the points were ‘time management’ in different guises. Take a week to do a large essay, it’ll be easier and give you plenty of time to back-track and change bits. This also prevents yourself becoming ‘overworked’ – a grim spectre that will hungrily engulf your spirit. Do not become over-worked.
One self-confessed ‘terrible second year’ at Oxford (their words, not mine) claimed that having goals but no set time-table gave her the freedom to gradually complete things, which is a golden nugget of advice. She also said to have fun, but I think we’ve covered that…
University can be hard, truly. It can be a difficult time of your life, filled to the brim with essays and reports – but it needn’t be. It will only be this way if you use one day a week to get a week’s worth of work done. Use your metaphorical bathtub!
Let that sink in.