Every subject deserves a reading week and here’s why

It’s not just humanities students who need a week off

Eleven weeks doesn’t seem like a super long amount of time. About two and a half months, or 77 days. But when you’re working flat out for those 77 days, it feels like a lifetime.

For some subjects, there’s the glory of a midterm break – reading week. A week for catching up on stuff, revising, and getting ready for the rest of term. As a life scientist, I have never known the meaning of reading week. We work flat out from day one to day 77, with no respite. A week behind by week five? Good luck catching up.

Real life photo of me in my blanket cocoon overwhelmed by endless biology

Student mental illness and stress levels are at an all time high, what with a new lockdown, a new unexpected way of life, and all of the pressure thrown at you. No longer can you go to Falmer Bar for a few bevs with your friends on a Wednesday, a long-time proven mood and morale booster. No longer can you access the library 24/7, being limited to silent study and a precious few pre-booked hours a week. Virtual learning means almost all teaching is done from your desk – almost always metres from your bed – meaning little to no separation of work and play. All of these mean it’s easier than ever before to feel overwhelmed and snowed in by your work.

A reading week allows students time to catch up, consolidate, and prepare. It allows teaching staff time to prep for the rest of the term, assess how their modules are going. Even without the pandemic, there’s very few reasons why universities shouldn’t split the term in half.

Everyone deserves a week off to read cat poems

It’s what we were all used to at school – October half term was always a great time to relax, reset, and maybe squeeze in some Halloween celebrations. But for many of us, the university experience (which is undoubtedly more high pressure than school) becomes a glutinous blob of time – barely telling the seasons change, with precious autumn passing by in a flurry of anxiety, lectures, seminars, and assignments. Now, with the addition of lockdown 2.0, it’s even harder to take a break from studies for even an hour, with only walks outside and the occasional pop to Aldi being our separation from work and living spaces.

I’m not saying we need to lose teaching time. I’d much rather start uni a week earlier, or have more condensed timetables (eight hours a week just isn’t cutting it right now). Students, no matter the subject, deserve a break. A proper break, not just ‘Winter break’ which is really just thinly veiled revision time. Students on every course need time to be able to stay on top of everything – a reading week would improve both grades and wellbeing – so why don’t all of us get one?