I am fortunate enough to get one day of study leave every fortnight whilst completing my course. This is a really big help as trying to balance a full-time job and studying an MSc is no easy task. Initially I thought I would prefer to have my fees covered by my employer, but over time I have to admit I actually prefer to get the time instead. As well as studying throughout the week, it is a massive help to have a whole day with which I can focus on my studies. It has certainly has paid off as I have been fortunate enough to have received marks for my assignments that I never would have expected. I certainly believe that these study days have played an important role in my achievements on the course so far.
Having said that, sometimes study days can be a bit of a drag. I tend to start and end my day as if I was at work, so I start at 9am and finish at 5pm (although recently I have been working right through to 6pm – glutton for punishment or what!?). The entire day is spent indoors ploughing through the module pack or doing research for assignments. It can get a little draining. I keep telling myself that I should break my day up into little chunks to make the workload more manageable (this would seem to be a very sound idea when studying Information Retrieval!). But, despite my better judgement, I end up having very few breaks throughout the day, mainly for fear that my mind will wonder and never return (there are just too many distractions out there – particularly when your course revolves around the internet, perhaps the biggest distraction ever invented).
Despite the hard slog, I do tend to break for lunch and tea breaks across the day. During one of these breaks I tend to take a short walk to my local shop to buy my newspaper and a few supplies. I say supplies, they normally consist of a packet of pickled onion Monster Munch (prefer the Flamin’ Hot ones personally, but hey), a bar of chocolate and, the brain food to end all brain foods, a Pot Noodle (curry flavour). There is nothing better to get the mind going than a good old fashioned Pot Noodle. I know some people say it is best to eat healthy when studying as the vitamins and minerals help the mind to conentrate. Well, for me, it’s a Pot Noodle every time (although sometimes tea and crumpets is a big help!). Having bought my supplies I settle back into the routine and make time for a break later in the day.
Despite my best laid plans, every now and then you just have a bad day studying. Take today for example. I spent the best part of the morning thinking of ways to approach my assignment. The real bugger was that the opening I had come up with was exactly the same as an article I had found. Try as I might, I couldn’t get it out of my head. And I knew I had to as, well, the author of said article just so happens to be the very person to mark it. Plagiarism is frowned on at the best of times, let alone when you have plagiarised the person who is marking your work. Very poor form.
So anyway, I wrote one draft. Stopped. Paced around my house reading through other articles that I had found. Started writing again. Stopped. This was getting me nowhere. Don’t you just hate first drafts? Whenever you read them back, they always cause you to think you are losing it. Did I really write that? But it’s so bad. Am I a fraud? Will I get found out? Will someone turn around and say that I have been rumbled and I never had the capability in the first place? So many doubts. So many worries. So few words written on the page. Don’t you just hate writer’s block? Not even a curry Pot Noodle can help me now.
And then, after hours of ‘freewriting’, tearing out hair and chowing down on some comfort food, you get that ‘eureka!’ moment. Suddenly, you find an article that really hits the spot. Inspires you. Urges you on. Suddenly you feel energised. Determined. You’re back in the game. You don’t want to stop. It feels so good you just want to keep typing and typing until you get that first draft finished. Then you have something to play with. Then you have something to mould. Then you have…….something. And boy does that feel good. And then you look up and see that it is 6pm and you have to be somewhere. Just when you thought it was going to be the longest study day of your life, it’s over. Study days eh? Where would I be without them? A lot more stressed but about a stone lighter. It’s amazing what those Pot Noodles do to your waistline you know.