Hi, I’m Ruby, a first year English Literature student at Durham University. I’m currently at home, but for the purpose of this blog post I’m going to pretend I’m still back in sunny Durham, where my heart truly belongs!
Tuesdays are my chaos days at university, where I have the most contact hours, so I thought I’d focus there. Because I live in a catered college, I have to actually get dressed and look presentable before I grab some breakfast in the dining hall at half eight: it’s a curse and a blessing, but at least it wakes me up! I don’t always get up so early, but I have a 9am lecture on Tuesday mornings. Definitely take a tea or a coffee with you in a travel mug for 9ams, to keep you going through the morning. My geography lecture (I know, an English student taking geography too?! At Durham, you can select modules from other topics besides your course providing there’s space and your timetable fits) lasts for around two hours, and mostly consists of trying to write down everything the professor says as fast as humanly possible. You can take notes however you want, and if you’re not that quick at note-making, don’t worry as most departments record their lectures, or you can use your phone to record.
After Geography, I head back up to college with a couple of other people from my lecture. Lunch doesn’t start until 12pm, so I go back to my room, shower and try to read a few pages of one of the books for my English pages. If you do take English, you’ll quickly realise you need to take every chance you can get to sneak a few pages in, as some of the books are really long. I tend to use a lot of pre-planning by looking at the lecture lists at the start of term, and marking big books that can’t be crammed into one or two days on my calendar, so I don’t have any hidden surprises!
My next lecture isn’t until 2pm, so after lunch and catching up with corridor mates I tend to check and respond to my emails (literally check your emails all the time, don’t get caught out and miss important course updates and deadline changes!) and then maybe head to the college library with a cup of tea and some reading until the walk down to my lecture.
From 2pm until 4pm I have two back-to-back English lectures: Introduction to Poetry, where we listen to a lecturer talk about form and make annotations to specific poems (definitely an important one to do the pre-reading for) and then English: Language, Use and Theory, which is more about linguistics and how the English language itself came into existence. Sometimes I also have an Introduction to Poetry tutorial before these lectures, lasting an hour. It’s a group of six or seven of us discussing pre-prepared poems and key questions about them, which sounds quite daunting but is actually good fun if you can get a debate going. It helps to engage and get other people’s perspectives as well as your own.
My friend and I tend to get any bits we need from town after the lectures at Elvet, as it’s much closer to town than to our college, Van Mildert, which means we don’t normally make it back until tea time, which starts at 5pm (although it does last until 7pm if you have late lectures). Depending on my workload that week, after dinner I either watch a movie with friends or sometimes we head to the library again if I have reading to get through, or if I have summative/formative essays due. At 8pm I have strength and conditioning training at Maiden Castle, the sports complex at Durham, for the Durham Sailing team. Getting involved in sport at university is a lifesaver: it helps you to meet new people and works nicely as a distraction from all the essays which can pile up sometimes! Doing sport in the evening helps me sleep better as well.
So that I have time for my sport, I make sure I have a comprehensive to do list at the start of the week and use my weekly planner and diary to allocate tasks to each day, as you can see below. Organisation, and my pastel highlighters is the only thing that allows me to juggle reading, essays, lectures, sports and my job as a Durham Ambassador!