Let me premise this with a quick bit of background info;
While I was at university, I worked 30-35 hours a week in a supermarket cafe to support my studies. There I encountered a range of people from all different walks of life. Yet, while stopping to grab a drink of water on a particularly hot day, an older lady, co-worker walked past me muttering “sat around as usual, don’t know why I should expect any more from a lazy student” I was furious, and ignored her for the rest of the day.
This is my older, hopefully slightly wiser response to her.
This is on behalf of every student out there. We know what you all think; that university is one big, fun, drink-a-thon, that we sleep til 2 everyday, that we never bother going to lectures, and that we’re out every night getting trashed on the money you pay in taxes.
You think that once in a while we throw together an essay in half an hour, hand it in, and after 3 years of doing this we get to graduate and moan about how we now have to join the real world. Now don’t get me wrong, we are guilty of a few of those things, but on the whole, you have no idea.
Because you don’t see us, close to tears after spending every waking second that we have spare in the library because we just can’t find the right words to spell out what we’ve been learning for the last 3 months. You haven’t seen us, eyes drooping trying to read text that our tired eyes can barely focus on. You haven’t seen us on the phone to our mums, sisters and each other, crying because it’s just too hard. You haven’t felt the pressure of wanting something so badly, something that is going to affect the rest of your life, but there doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day, and you just can’t work hard enough.
You didn’t see me wake up at 8, pick up my laptop or a book, pretty much the second I was awake enough to move my limbs. You didn’t see my study ferociously, until the last second before I had to get changed to go to work, or go to a lecture and then work (depending on what day it it).
Things are different for you. When you finish work, you go home, you speak to your husband, possibly your children. Then you do the day-to-day things; cook dinner, tidy up, shower, clean your house, do some food shopping maybe. All of these things that you forget that we have to do too. Things we some how have to wedge in-between, studying, working, essay writing, trying to keep in contact with friends and family who live 100 miles away and the hundred other tasks we someone seem to have taken on without realising.
Now don’t for a second think I am looking down on you, for not having been to University, for not having a degree; for going out into the real world and getting a job. Don’t get me wrong, we all have respect for you. We will all go and do that eventually and trust me, at 2am, staring at a pile of books, it seems ridiculous to us that we chose this path too.
Which is part of the reason we do the things you look down on. Because I’ll be the first to admit there are times when we do go out and party two/three/four nights in a row. We drink, dance and enjoy life, because tomorrow is essay time again. Is uncertainty time again. Is boring time again. Time where we have to be serious and worry about our futures again. But for those few short hours, we can indulge ourselves. We can remind ourselves that we are young, we are enjoying ‘the best years of our lives’. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll be lucky enough to be able to find a spare hour to lay in tomorrow. Although that probably means that we have to stay up a few hours later tomorrow night to make up for.
Yes, I can’t deny that those three years contained some of the most fun times I have had in my life. I made friends for life. I laughed until I cried. I skinny-dipped. I read some amazing books while lying in the sun. I danced on bars and fell out of taxi’s, I even fell in love harder than I ever had before. And I would never give up any of those experiences.
But I also wouldn’t take back the times where I cried at 2am because I handed in an essay and then realised when going over it, that there was a typo. The hours I spent hours frantically scanning library shelves for the one tiny book I needed. The weeks spent trying to get through a book that I couldn’t stand because I had to give a presentation on it. The many, many times I phoned my Mum in tears because I missed home. And even that one time I started sobbing in a bookshop because I was beyond stressed out and the book I needed had sold out. Okay, maybe that one I would take back if I could. But my point is the lows make the highs seem even higher, and all in all they’ve all added up to the person I am today.
This is just a gentle reminder; those days we do sleep in until 2, it’s because we’re too exhausted from living these otherwise constantly active lives. Even when we do stay in our pajamas and not leave the house for one, two, three days straight, we are still doing something. Reading, writing, highlighting, essay planning, worrying, stressing, talking ourselves in and out of the fact that we might be able to actually pass our degree.
And first and foremost – maybe next time you should ask some one what their life is like, before you believe the stereotype.
That not-so-lazy student.