A day in the life of two third years in lockdown
Exam term, but not as we know it
Unless you are perhaps some sort of monk living in a cave you can’t fail to have noticed that the university’s provision for this term between subjects and years has been…uneven. We (Caitlin and Francesco) decided to conduct a not-so-scientific comparison between two completely different subjects (History and Phys Nat Sci) to see how big the contrasts really were by recording a typical day in each of our lives during the lead up to the exam period.
We had very different looking exam timetables, as Caitlin’s history finals consisted of one long essay (the actual name the history faculty unimaginatively gives it), editing two supervision essays to hand in, completing a single 24 hour online exam and tallying a whopping 3 contact hours over the term. Whereas Francesco’s Phys Nat Sci timetable involved taking 7 exams after handing in coursework at the start of term. The differences in the workloads this entailed will become apparent below. We would like to note that we are referring to ourselves in the third person above for the sake of clarity but that we feel very weird about doing it.
Francesco: My phone buzzes me awake. I silently thank God that goose mating season is over and there is no screeching outside my window.
Francesco: I think I can finally consider myself awake. I get up and have breakfast. Coffee and chocolate digestives is an upgrade from Sainsbury’s porridge; being at home has its perks.
Caitlin: At last, I rouse myself from my slumber. I would like to say that my sleep schedule is off because all my lectures have been cancelled and I have nothing to get up for but actually it is always this bad. I start the day with half a pint of fruit juice and cake for breakfast (Marie Antoinette walked so I could run).
Francesco: The caffeine has convinced me to do some work. In a cruel catch-22, the caffeine has also made me too jittery and inattentive to get anything done. So I watch YouTube videos instead, whoops.
Francesco: For real this time, I’m working. I made the terrible mistake of ignoring one of my modules for most of last term and now I have to catch up over 3 weeks’ worth of content. In under a week. My exams may be a joke this year, but I’ve still managed to back myself into a stressful corner.
Caitlin: I get up after spending half an hour watching New Girl on Netflix (this isn’t a recommendation, it’s a cry for help). I actually have a lot of work to do today compared to usual but I never work more than four hours a day so getting up later doesn’t matter. Unfortunately, after getting dressed I go right back to watching Netflix.
Caitlin: I begin work on my essay. I have decided to try and finish writing it today which is slightly ambitious as I have to write another 4000 words at least. My essay plan should help speed up the process though.
Caitlin: After only half an hour of work I decide it is very much time for a lunch break because I am starving. During the lockdown I have come that much closer to my eventual goal of living entirely on puddings so I have Nutella and banana toast for lunch accompanied by a J20 Spritz (criminally high sugar levels) and eat it in the garden because it’s a sunny day.
Francesco: My dad peeks his head into my room and nods. There is an unspoken agreement that it’s time for our daily exercise. It’s short and nothing eventful, although I am a bit salty that a 60 year old can almost outpace me at with my own workout.
Caitlin: Back to work. This bit of the day was boring because I just wrote my essay. Although I was writing a bit on sexual immorality in the Victorian era at this point which was mildly interesting. Did you know that Cecil Rhodes collected phallic sculptures? Now you do.
Francesco: It’s lunchtime. Today it’s pasta with tomato sauce, nothing fancy but I’ll take my mum’s recipe over hall any day. Lunch is family time, so my mum takes this opportunity to remind us that, in her professional opinion, the world is falling apart. Lunch ends with a discussion on why lactose-free milk is, in fact, sweeter than regular milk, despite not containing milk’s primary sugar. We ran out of things to talk about sometime in week 2 of lockdown.
Caitlin: I take a break and go on a walk. I am lucky to live in a rural area with ample secluded footpaths however cars seem to think they can drive at 90mph in the countryside so I am nearly killed by speeding Audis several times.
Francesco: After a second caffeine paralysis, with accompanying YouTube binging, it is time to do more work. With a couple of breaks (like the one I’m using to write this), this will mostly carry me to dinner. Accounting for procrastination this adds up to about 5 hours of work, enough time to sit through a couple of lectures and do one question.
Caitlin: My mother begins a dance class in the sitting room, where my desk is ever since I realised I can’t concentrate in my room and moved it. As I type she is doing adult ballet. Not, like, kinky ballet, just everyone in the class is middle aged. About twenty minutes after this begins I hit 6000 words and call it a day.
Unfortunately Mum’s dance class is ongoing so I have to sneak out of the room as she pliés. When I reach my room I discover that without any warning the university have dropped the exam timetable into my email inbox like they think they’re Kanye West doing a surprise album drop. However my single exam is even later than I had hoped it might be so it’s good news for me.
Caitlin: After lounging in bed and playing Animal Crossing for a while we have dinner, which is spaghetti bolognaise, unusually prepared by my father because of my Mum being in the dance class. You have to be careful about letting my Dad cook mince because he sometimes likes to add insane quantities of chilli which renders it inedible (I call this mince roulette) however on this particular evening he has got the balance right. Thanks for the meal, Dad!
Francesco: A furloughed household is a slave to no clock. Dinner time is whenever dinner is ready, and today that’s 10:30. We have veggie wraps and rice, and my mother provides a second daily reminder that the world is ending. After dinner my parents and I watch Modern Family together, the only show we all tolerate.
Francesco: This is the most productive time of the day. The house is quiet, the ducks have gone to sleep, I can turn on a desk lamp and pretend I’m in a library. Somehow I knock out a tenth of the work due in just under 2 hours.
Caitlin: I go to sleep, realising that once again I have done very little with my day having spent the rest of the evening watching YouTube in my bedroom. Will tomorrow be different? No, almost certainly not.
Francesco: I watch an old episode of How I Met Your Mother on my phone while brushing my teeth and getting ready for bed. Then I sleep and repeat.
All images authors’ own