It’s hard to pin down what a ‘typical’ day at university is for me, because frankly, no two days are ever quite the same as a Cambridge MML (Modern and Medieval Languages) student.
Cambridge Humanities students notoriously have very few contact hours – at least in comparison to their Science counterparts – but a lack of contact hours doesn’t mean less work. Au contraire, I found myself having to rely on self-motivation and time management more than ever before to get through the amount of independent reading and research needed to prepare for those few contact hours each week, which for me ranged from between 12 and 16 in the first two terms.
The pros: much more flexibility to do other activities at varied times of the day and not just in the evenings. You also have more freedom to choose to work at the time of day that works for you.
The cons: classes might be spread out so that you have only an hour of free time between lessons, and if you find keeping track of events difficult, it might be a bit confusing at first.
However, before I applied to Cambridge, I was desperate to know what a ‘real’ student’s day looked like. That’s why I’ve cobbled together this idea of a ‘typical’ day as an MML student at Cambridge. It is based on a Tuesday from my timetable in my second year, a day when I only had 2-3 contact hours. Bear in mind, though, that my days can vary widely. When exams are looming, I might aim to work (with breaks and procrastination) 8-10 hours or more, but on other days I might work none at all. Days off are possible. It depends on how you work best. This is a “typical” day for me, not the day of a “typical” Cambridge student.
Nevertheless, here you are.
A day in the life of a Cambridge MML student.
8.15am: My alarm goes off. I snooze it groggily and accidentally fall asleep again.
8.25am: My alarm goes off a second time. I nearly fall asleep again after turning it off but I have deadlines looming. The fear pushes me out of bed.
8.32am: I sit at my desk eating breakfast and looking over my bullet journal (‘How I organise my life’ blog coming soon) and google calendar to remind myself what I have planned for the day. Then I get dressed and ready for the day, pack a bag with all I’ll need until lunchtime, and head to the library.
9.05am: I make it to the college library and set out my stuff, starting work on some reading for an upcoming Spanish essay. I’ve already very very quickly read through the text in the holidays – one of the few times I’ve actually succeeded in doing so – so now I’m focusing on literary criticism because I’m a bit stumped about where the essay questions are supposed to be leading. Hopefully the criticism will make things a little clearer.
9.26am: Get distracted by a group chat and spend a few minutes on my phone until someone walks past and I guiltily turn wifi off for a bit.
10:45am: My handwritten notes are rapidly expanding into a lengthy mess and so is my confusion. I go for a quick wander to fill up my water bottle and clear my head, then return to the library.
12pm: I go back to my room to make a quick lunch and switch some folders around in my bag, then grab my helmet and cycle to the Sidgwick Site, where the MML building and the Lecture Block are, as well as numerous other libraries and faculty buildings.
1pm – 2pm: Catalan language class. Thursdays are grammar days, which I both love and hate. Why do Catalan personal pronouns have to be so difficult?
2pm – 3pm: SPAV (Spanish though Audiovisual Media) class. Definitely one of my least favourite papers, because I’m terrible at listening comprehension. Talk to a few classmates after, exchanging our woes and complaints about how difficult everything is, and somehow feel better about it afterwards. Go to the library to return a book.
3.30pm: The long, long cycle to Girton. Despair at my own lack of fitness and at my poor luck in landing a supervision all the way out here this year.
3.51pm: Arrive at Girton exhausted and embarrassingly pink in the face. .
4-5pm: French literature supervision. It goes surprisingly well despite my qualms about the essay. Manage to ask a few questions that were bothering me and which I wouldn’t be comfortable asking via email or in a large group of students. I wish I could just write exam essays straight after a supervision. I think so much more analytically when I’m discussing concepts in a supervision environment and can bounce thoughts off other people.
5pm: Cycle back to my college, lock up my bike, and lie on my bed scrolling social media for a while until I’m less tired and it’s dinnertime in the college buttery.
6-7pm: Dinner. Chat to friends. Relax.
7pm: I head back to the college library with a couple of my friends to tick off the rest of my day’s to-do list. This time, I’m doing some grammar work for French translation classes, and some Catalan homework. I type up new vocab into Quizlet. Scroll social media for a bit. Get distracted and start googling cheap flights abroad, then realise I’m being ridiculous and get back to work for a bit, occasionally breaking to check Messenger or chat to a friend across the table in whispers.
10.30pm: Tired but feeling a bit more like I’ve done all I can for the day, I head back to my room to watch some Netflix and drink a cup of tea before bed.
Any questions? Drop them in the comments below!