Tab Tries: Lecture Hopping

ADRIAN GRAY drops in on other people’s lectures to see if he can’t learn something from the experience.

Adrian Gray BBC News Bejewled cambridge lectures Downing sire e=mc2 Kenny rogers lancashire lecture hopping Lectures river mole

‘Lecture hopping’- now there’s a phrase you don’t hear very often. Probably because I just made it up.

By it, I mean the process of attending other people’s lectures: a practice I’ve often been intrigued by but never had the motivation to engage in. However, a couple of weeks ago I encountered a mathematician in my sociology lecture who told me he’d been lecture hopping six times. He was now addicted, regularly cancelling supervisions and neglecting deadlines to sit in on anything from EDE to Middle-Eastern studies. My intrigue doubled. ‘What’s the appeal?’ I asked. ‘I was being sarcastic; this is the first time I’ve done this’, he replied.

Still, sarcasm or not, he’d sold it well, and with no essays looming I planned a week of lecture hopping. The subjects I attended were as follows:


What I expected

I wasn’t too sure what to expect from Geography, chiefly because Geography hasn’t really decided what to expect from itself. The Israel-Palestine conflict and the River Mole are about as closely related as The Honey Monster and tuberculosis – yet, somehow, both formed part of my Geography A-level. Still, colouring pencils at the ready, I headed for the Downing Site.

What I got

Sitting towards the back, I glanced up at the lecture title. It read: Things that are solid in water. Great, I thought. I know plenty of things that are solid in water. People, polypropylene, cashew nuts. This was going to be a doddle. And it was  – if, by doddle, you mean the most tedious hour of my life.

When lecture hopping, always come prepared.

Time slowed to a standstill as a cross between Kenny Rogers and a starved parakeet laboured its way through four thousand slides of drainage basin banality, carefully sapping all excitement from the usually exhilarating concepts of rainfall, erosion and sediment. The whole experience was stupendously dull, and I felt a bit like a bored Grange Hill character, slowly drifting off into a plot-related daydream as the teacher’s bland ramblings faded to nothing.


Interesting observation

A lot of the students were wearing jumpers. Though this might have been due to the weather. It was probably the weather.


What I expected

A room full of soon-to-be investment bankers, desperately clinging on to their few remaining years as respectable human beings. I also presumed I’d encounter some of the concepts I regularly read about on the BBC News website but rarely understand: recessions, the invisible hand, austerity, economics… You know the kind.

What I got

A woman who sounded like she was shouting even when she wasn’t spoke mainly on free trade, using the USA and Lancashire as her main examples. The invisible hand was nowhere to be seen, which was perhaps unsurprising considering its name, but, despite my ignorance, a lot of the content proved relatively digestible. 

Interesting observation

Ask the student next to you what free trade means after an hour-long lecture on free trade, and they will politely attempt to explain it to you.


Actually a complicated hydrocarbon.

What I expected

Apprehensive would be the best way to describe how I felt before Saturday’s chemistry lecture. Not only had I not encountered the word ‘hydrocarbon’ since mid-2010, but I’d been told to expect some maths, which isn’t my strong point. At GCSE, for instance, I’d spent half the year panicking, half the year trying to ‘hack’, and half the year struggling with fractions, so I was prepared for the worst.

What I got

There wasn’t much maths, thankfully. But there was a whole host of bizarre shapes and symbols – most of which appeared to have been borrowed from Bejeweled 2 – smattered across the slides and hand-outs. Amidst the incomprehensible array of hexagons and pointy eggs there were some funny phrases like ‘homo/lumo’ and ‘backside’ to keep me entertained, but overall I was left with the impression that, as an arts student, I have it fairly easy. The amount covered seemed vast.

Interesting observation


So, ‘lecture hopping’: as it turns out, not that interesting. But, I did get to fall asleep in a lecture without feeling guilty, so probably on balance still a worthwhile experience.