Have you ever wondered what university would be like if we had to go to lectures all day, every day? Think about it, it’s not too dissimilar from school. We woke up at 8am, ventured off to school and had to stay in until 4pm every day.
Admittedly, students get a large amount of breaks at school or sixth form. But this got me thinking about how inefficient the university system can make us. If university was 9am to 5pm every day of the week, higher education would be completely different. The transition into working life wouldn’t be that difficult. Too often, graduate employers comment on the general unemployability of graduating students these days.
I decided to go on a mission to find out what it would be like to study as a ‘working student’ – a student committed to 9 to 5 each and every weekday.
To do this, I had to prepare in advance. I have a part-time job, so holiday had to be booked early on. The key question was whether I would attend lectures from my own three departments (PPE) or would venture out to other departments. Eventually, I decided to pick from my own departments, but not stick to my year’s modules. I subscribe to each department’s calendar on Google Calendar and made my own timetable of lectures.
Naturally, I was worried about the social aspect of my challenge. I wanted to prove that students could still go out and socialise. That they can reap all the benefits of university that are so vital to an individual’s development, whilst still being committed to a full day of lectures. The conclusion was inevitable; I had to attend every YUSU club night. This equated to four nights: Sunday Revs, Kuda Tuesdays, Salvation Wednesdays and Fibbers Thursdays. Of course, I wasn’t going to go to Willow so I only had to spend a couple of hours out.
Honestly, the start of my challenge was tragic. I had gone to Sunday Revs the night before my inaugural start on Monday, so it was almost impossible to roll out of bed at 8am. I’m not much of a ‘morning person’. My thoughts throughout the day wavered to the fact that by embarking on this I had made a mistake. I was used to sleeping into 11am on Monday mornings as my first, and only lecture, on a Monday was at 3pm. Nevertheless, I dragged myself into the shower, packed my bag (I was very grown up and had prepared a packed lunch) and headed to the outdoors.
My first lecture was a monstrous challenge – the third year economics module Econometric Theory II. For those of you who study the module – why do you do it? It was two hours of intense model building with statistical theory I barely recognised or could grasp.
With my enthusiasm unwavered, I began to wake up with help of Costa. I even started to look forward to the remaining lectures. My first morning was an eclectic conglomeration of Advanced Microeconomics, an hour of ‘Creativity’ with a further hour of gender studies (my favourite one of the day). I took lunch at 2pm for an hour in the library cafe where I met a mocking friend and then dragged myself to Normative Ethics.
As the day went on, I began to notice how tired I was getting. Despite enjoying only an hour’s break, I was still excited. Attending lots of lectures, changing my ‘thinking’ patterns to suit each one; I was enjoying the variety.
As 6pm came, I went home and had crashed out by 9pm without even eating dinner. My second day was a jumble of what must be the hardest modules offered to students everywhere. From the intriguing Philosophy of Philosophy, to a whole module on the Structures and Regulations of Financial Markets. My mind was challenged from 9am to 6pm. However, it was much easier to start than yesterday, perhaps due to the 11hours sleep.
As Wednesday rolled by, I knew that it was trickier to plan for; my lectures only went on until midday. Being dedicated, I utilised the time for what students are supposed to do. Sports.
The lectures were quick to finish this time (a welcome relief to my hangover). Population Economics was over by 10am. Next were the mysterious Security Challenges. At this point I was surprised that nobody realised that I didn’t belong in any of the lectures. It was easy. I simply sat close to the back. Some friends noticed me, but a little explanation quenched their curiosity.
This tactic failed me during the Security lecture. Someone spotted me as a lecture tourist. Despite the awkwardness, I sat through the entire hour. All my lectures had finished by midday, I had lunch for an hour and then looked at my plans for the afternoon. I am most certainly not sporty, and by agreeing to join a friend to his classes I was petrified. I hadn’t played sports since GCSE and vivid memories of failed basketball (I’m 5ft 7) were brought to my mind.
Nevertheless, the opportunity for pursuing sport at York is phenomenal. In my research, I noticed an incredible number of levels. Some were informal (but still competitive) college level sport, others entailed club training. I settled for badminton and walked out wanting more.
With another gruelling full day behind me and a night out at Fibbers, I was dead by my next start on Friday. I started noticing the toll constant lectures was having upon me, albeit my drinking just enough as to wake up at 8am and still be efficient the next day. Thursday night saw me surpass that level at a birthday party.
Despite this, and my initial reservations, I reached Friday mostly unscathed. My attention span was up, my interest for my degree had peaked and I was starting to enjoy the content of my lectures.
Friday was my busiest day of the week (a whopping 3 lectures) so I decided to take on easier lectures to complement my own. By the time they came along, I was more interested in the work I had for my course. Instead of sitting in a cramped lecture hall listening to droning on an unfamiliar topic, my course was more familiar to me and, therefore, more enjoyable.
Whilst the week’s challenge certainly felt crazy, and was tough alongside that, I realised how inefficient I had become since my first year. I saw my interest in academia had definitely collapsed as a result of my endeavours and my eyes had certainly been opened by the laziness that university helps you develop.
However, I would never advocate such a system. My social life was definitely impacted (even with a talking point such as this challenge) and there was absolutely no time to study independently outside of each module. Extracurricular activities were probably never going to be pursued – something that definitely must be chased up at university.
Whilst eye-opening and certainly interesting, I recommend trying this for a week. But definitely no more than that.