Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The long and winding weekend

For some reason I've been resigned to the fact that tomorrow is still a work day. In the midst of going to class, working at my internship, running errands and making myself stir fry for dinner, somehow it managed to slip my mind that I'm still living in the real world. Or some measure of the real world, where not every day is a standalone series of events, but part of a whole conglomeration of days in weeks in months in years, during which I will always be responsible for something.

I spent all of this evening doing little to nothing. Took a shower, told myself I was sitting down to write a blog, instead spent hours "socializing" with the people I love, forgot about responsibilities, almost fell asleep sitting up without having finished this blog.

What has my life become? Unlike my time at my home institution where I spend every day sitting around my room gallivanting across the interwebs in the mid-afternoon, I am now confined to a set time at the end of the day with which to unwind and relax. I no longer know how to handle the pressure. Or lack of pressure.

The way I've concocted my schedule this term (also known as a quarter if you are on that system or a semester if you are familiar with that), I have no peace in the afternoons midweek. I run around from place to place - quite literally since one of my classes takes place in London art galleries all around on the city. I start every Tuesday and end every Wednesday with a visit to my internship site. There really is no down time.

When I'm in Chicago, this is the worst fate. I cry over filled afternoons, lost lunch hours, lacking time to spend along Lake Michigan staring at the water in exchange for a stone cold classroom where my professor inevitably leaves the lights off so I'm practically falling asleep in lecture.

Then I got here, to London. A place where students generally only have two to three days of coursework and the rest of their time is spent either studying, or probably more likely, partying. And I realized that in exchange for the stress of running from place to place between Tuesday and Thursday (a schedule which I am currently in the middle of), I have the luxury of Mondays and Fridays off.

A four day weekend at my home university is like the holy grail. It means you've done your research, figured out the most efficient class schedule, jam-packed your midweek days and probably destroyed all your free time until the weekend comes.

But here, it's commonplace. The idea of having a four day weekend and a three day work week is not a novelty. And it's getting hard to adjust.

Tomorrow feels like its purpose is to ease me into a quiet and uneventful weekend. While I have a few things planned, I am not going to be traveling to far away countries. There's nothing to be physical or mentally prepared for. But at the moment I'm in the process of transitioning from "what did I learn from the readings" mode to "how can I watch every episode of QI ever in one weekend" mode.

These are two very distinct selves. And the fact that they are split up over three and four day increments rather than the usual five and two has been infinitely confusing to me. It has become especially problematic as my schedule does not align with anyone else within this university. Students will party at midnight (aka now) on a Wednesday night/Thursday morning, when I have class in the morning. They will be utterly silent other days of the week when it is actually acceptable for me to stay up late.

I've already complained about the terrors of an English university system that requires tons of research papers and little classroom engagement. But I think I'm starting to believe that the most dysfunctional part of this process is the wackadoodle nature of it all. We're left on our own, in some respect, but by the sheer nature of a college and the collective mindset of its students, perhaps we've been given too much liberty?

The liberty to decide when to sleep on any particular day. The liberty to play massively loud music when we should be sleeping. The liberty to schedule our classes so that our weekends are longer than our works weeks.

As a study abroad student, it makes sense for me to have four day weekends. I need to allot time to travel the continent while I still can. But in general, this system simply doesn't make sense to me. As an analytical mind, it's something I think about. But as someone who benefits from the system, I think I'll just turn a blind eye.

What's said is said. That's the last you'll hear about it from me.

Until perhaps I'm writing about going on long weekend vacations. Then you'll hear about it until your ears fall off. Apologies in advance.

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