Week in the Life: Endings, presentations, and my dissertation

Bethany Frost reveals the ups and downs of her last week of term.

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Photograph by Bethany Frost

I can’t imagine that Week 20 is a particularly exciting week for many students, not least a third-year with a dissertation deadline at the end of it (well, my personal deadline, but the actual deadline is the Tuesday after term ends).

I’m a final year English Literature and History undergraduate belonging to Pendle College. Although there is, if I can remember the chant correctly, only one Pendle College, I actually live in town and rarely have reason to walk so far south on campus that I see my first-year home. But that doesn’t mean that the College and its clipart-witch logo don’t have a special place in my heart (my dissertation is on witchcraft, after all!).

Monday, 19 March

My phone alarm decided to only vibrate instead of playing Gloria Estefan’s Get on Your Feet, and that is my excuse for sleeping through it until 9.30am. The other explanation is that I was working on my dissertation until 2am last night: I’m not close enough to the deadline to forgo sleep entirely.

I had a pre-packaged pain au chocolate for breakfast because it’s the closest I can currently get to my daydream of picking up a coffee and pastry as I saunter to a (as of yet unknown) workplace. Lunch consisted of hastily-put-together peanut butter sandwiches and several of the cereal bars lurking in the bottom of my bag because I am a functioning adult.

Since a “reading week” preceded the strike action, I hadn’t had a Shakespeare lecture in four weeks, so remembering to go was something of a challenge, but I made it! Afterwards, I met up with my presentation partner to go over the finishing touches for our PowerPoint for tomorrow.

Most of the day was spent working on my dissertation, and I sense this is what the rest of the week is largely going to be. The joys of Week 20. I got home around 8pm and made ginger rice with (microwavable) vegetables, which is probably the most adventurous my cooking is going to get this week.

As I ate, I caught up with the evening’s episode of The Worst Witch on CBBC; even though the 1999 CITV adaption has an irreplaceable spot in my heart, the new version is genuinely very good.

Tuesday, 20 March

Today was the day of presentation doom. That may be a little melodramatic, as two presentations in a day isn’t the worst thing that’s ever happened to a person, but it wasn’t exactly fun.

An extended seminar and a meeting with my other presentation partner filled the gaps in my already busy Tuesday, so lunch was cancelled. But snacks are an important part of the Ballet Society exec’s meeting agenda: we ended up with a great collection of Easter chocolate which of course is one of the major food groups, so I managed to do without proper food until I could get to Greggs later.

Despite having to give presentations, the most challenging part of my day was speed-walking to get to a lecture between County and Bowland through the current Spine diversion which was an adventure and a half. The lecture was for my human rights History module: that doesn’t lend itself to the cheeriest of topics, generally, and todays lecture was on genocide which, understandably, left me emotionally drained.

The only dissertation work I could sum up the mental strength to do was getting my coloured pens out to do some re-ordering and highlighting. Luckily, the bright-spot of the day was yet to come: the end of term meal with the Liberal Democrats society.

We switched our usual meeting for the happy hour at Paulo Giannis: good food and company was the pick-me-up that I desperately needed. I managed to get an earlier night’s sleep than usual (at around 11.30pm), but it was likely the effect of having to get up for a 9am today, rather than any successful adjustment to my sleeping schedule.

Wednesday, 21 March

My early-morning plan started off well in that I was quite lucidly awake at 7am, but then somehow it was 8.30am and I was waking up again. Not a disaster, but not ideal when deadlines are rapidly approaching. Unsurprisingly, most of my day was involved working on the dissertation, with my breaks well-spent doing Buzzfeed quizzes.

Excitingly, my sister was on a sixth-form trip to Lancaster, so I got to meet up with her during the 45 minutes she was let loose for lunch. I’d already introduced her to the joys of Go Burrito, so I was very proud she decided to spread the burrito gospel to her friends. I like to think I pulled off Cool Older Sister At Uni instead of Deeply Embarrassing But Trying To Be Cool Sibling. Who knows?

I ended up staying on campus until about 10pm, so I missed The Assassination of Gianni Versace and made the very difficult decision to not watch it until all my coursework was handed in. At fifteen-years-old I was convinced Darren Criss was my soulmate. While I haven’t fully ruled out that possibility, I am now capable of watching his acting somewhat rationally, and by god is he chillingly good as serial killer Andrew Cunanan.

I then got a sudden writing urge so accidentally stayed up working until 1am. And then sleep just didn’t want to happen, so I found myself at 3am watching a 40-minute conspiracy theory video about Lea Michele being unable to read. Arguably not the best life choice, but I couldn’t find it within myself to regret it.

Thursday, 22 March

If you’d have told first-year-me that getting to an 11am would feel like a Herculean task, I would have probably laughed while feeling horribly disappointed in my future self. But here we are.

I was very pleasantly surprised to find that other people had shown up: in the final seminar I had for a module last term, I was the only person there other than the tutor, which wasn’t quite as horrendous as I feared it would be, but it also wasn’t something I was in a hurry to re-live today, especially as my brain felt like molasses.

That zombie-like state didn’t fade until I got donuts from the market at 4pm. In the evening, the Ballet Society had their AGM and hustings instead of class, with free Domino’s because that’s the best way to entice people to come. It was quite bittersweet, even though handover won’t happen until next term and I have complete faith in the new exec team, as letting go of something you’ve done for three years is always hard. After the elections took place, we put on the movie Ballerina.

I still hadn’t got as much work done as I needed to, so I gloomily dragged myself back to the library until 10pm and worked at home until 1am, again.

Friday, 23 March

It seems that the more stressed I am when I wake up, the harder it is to actually get going with my day, so even though I had big dissertation goals for the day, I only got to campus at 11am. I decided that a change of scenery might get my brain back in gear, so I went to the computer suite in County Main, and it definitely helped.

I went to my final lecture (excluding revision lectures next term) in the afternoon and left feeling very emotional. I think it was mostly stress, as apparently the only way my body has figured out how to process it is through crying. But even though writing essays is the bane of my existence, I really love my degree, and my human rights module in particular as it has inspired me to do an MA.

The lecturer also emphasised that we should take an actual break during the holidays to avoid burn-out, which is something that needs to be a more widespread recommendation by the University.

So, I was feeling a lot of feelings, and then had to try and get my brain to finetune my chapters. And that did happen, but not enough, so I ended up not achieving my goal for the day (and the week) which was a big disappointment.

However, I finished the day by going to my best friend’s 21st, where another friend challenged me to beer pong, knowing that my depth-perception is essentially non-existent. And yet I beat her, which was satisfying.

It’s been a strange week. It’s also very possible that I’ve broken the record for the number of times a person listens to the Kill Your Darlings soundtrack in one week: if so, that’s a badge I’ll wear proudly!

The final week of term is always odd, as it can end up being a game of surviving on weirder sleeping and eating habits than usual because of deadlines. Not reaching my end-of-the-week goal was really disappointing, but over this term I’ve started to learn the value of not beating myself up when things don’t work out.

As the final week of term is hell for so many students, I have realised more than ever how lucky I am to be surrounded by such caring, supportive and fun people. Yes, my degree is important, but it can never be a replacement for the personal growth and friendships I’ve developed while doing it.