Thursday, 2 June 2011

A day in the life of an English student

Actually, I lied. I’m describing two days.

Day One

Day one represents two days in a five day week: non-contact days. These are the days in which English students fill the English student stereotype – ‘all you do is read’. One of my lecturers said that the reason we are doing an English degree is because ‘we are the kind of people who have stayed up late reading a book’, implying that we are riveted by the narration, plot, characterisation, form, or whatever floats our literary boats. Bob, you could not be more correct.

Non-contact days are brilliant in one way – you can do the majority of your work in bed, and for me, tea and pyjamas all day are mandatory. The down side is that you usually need to complete copious amounts of primary reading, let alone secondary, for the following day, which is near-on impossible. Other than reading, these days are used for essays and delighting in Google books and JSTOR simply because we cannot be bothered to de-pyjama ourselves and trek to the library for resources.

Day Two

Day two represents the remaining three days in our five day week. Having made the effort to get out of bed to attend a 9am lecture, and drunk the necessary caffeine to stay awake, one generally listens to an interesting lecture, which tells you some, but not nearly enough, information on the novel, play or poem you are studying that day.

It is important for me to mention here that the English lecturers are absolute legends. A particular favourite of mine is Ruth Kennedy, who teaches Medieval Drama. Her lectures comprise of a slideshow of pictures that are almost completely unrelated to the subject area (to give you a taste, we’ve had road-kill, Homer Simpson, Babar, a Rastafarian Last Supper, and ‘God getting a parking fine’), between which she gives little pearls of wisdom regarding the play or poem we are studying. Her seminars are lively, with lots of acting and interaction encouraged. She once prided me on my ability to form a good sentence, attributing such a skill to having read Enid Blyton as a child. Ruth is a very much a ‘marmite-lecturer’, you either love or hate her for her little quirks. For me, she’s definitely in the love category. This is almost entirely unrelated to the fact that I achieved a first in her course.

Lectures and seminars are the main methods of teaching, and although not all the lessons are quite as exciting as Ruth’s, for the most part they are enjoyable and intellectually stimulating, urging you to go to the library to research the topics you’re interested in.

Ah. ‘The library’. There are two libraries at Royal Holloway. By ‘the library’ I mean Founders library. For those of you who don’t know, Founders library is in the main, old castle building of the university. This library is beautifully Hogwarts-esque. It is cosy, with leather-topped wooden desks with lamps, and the smell of old books surrounding you as you study. All the literature books are located here, and I know it like the back of my hand.

However, I have been taking a theory module this year. Being the conscientious student that I am, I looked up an extra theory book. To my dismay, the library catalogue told me that this book was in Bedford library. I literally shivered, perspiration beginning to form on my brow.

I loathe Bedford.

Despite the fact that it’s so evidently inferior to Founders, Bedford tries to be better. It is clinically white all over, with the downstairs non-silent zone being ridiculously loud, and the upstairs silent zone being painfully quiet. There’s a mini-cafe area which sells over-priced pretentious food like quail’s egg bagels. There are never any seats free, particularly around deadline and exam times. None of the plug-sockets work, and the books use a completely different numerical system to Founders. The only plus side is that you always bump into someone you know, generally Jonny Tizzard. As I say, I loathe Bedford, and cannot understand why it is so popular.

Needless to say, I couldn’t find the book I needed, and made a hasty escape.

After such traumatic experiences, wedges in Crosslands (delicious, and affordable) are necessary, before trekking home, almost being knocked off your feet by Judith Hawley (another legendary English teacher who does an amazing pigeon impression and allows ‘cough breaks’ in the middle of her lectures) who is leaving via the back gate on her old fashioned push-bike with bell.

I love my life.