Having returned to St Andrews in September finding you have forgotten how to hold a pen, over the last six weeks you have been inundated with deadlines, you have had a busy and engaging social environment to contend with, and you have felt the pressure of clubs and societies. When reading week rolls around, you may, like me, find yourself lost and confused about how to spend a commitment-free week after an industrious start to the semester. So here are a few tips I learnt this reading week to help you avoid coming back for Week 7 feeling underwhelmed.
1. Escape the bubble
This one can be important. St Andrews is a small university town, which can confront you with a thorough academic battering, a busy schedule and an intense social environment. For a chance to decompress, a change of scene can be highly beneficial. Whether it be your hometown or elsewhere, taking the chance to change your environment can make a world of difference, even by taking a day or two to explore the rest of the country for those who cannot get home in the space of a week.
2. Take part in Raisin
What better way to begin a class-free interlude than partake in inevitably weird fun with academic family and friends! Raisin is almost a rite of passage for the beginning of reading week, enabling you to let off steam, and let loose entirely if you weren’t already at that point.
3. Avoid academic work
In order to feel truly refreshed and recharged for the second half of the semester, it is helpful – despite the week’s namesake – to give yourself a break from the books. I have spent some reading weeks back at the family home shut in my room frantically reading for essays I left too late; I may as well have been back in the university library. If you can help it, give yourself a well-deserved break from academia. Although it might be a stretch to actively seek out modules whose deadline schedules leave your reading week free, try and plan ahead in order to give yourself a chance to enjoy something else.
4. Catch up with non-St Andrews friends
Reading week also gives students the chance to reacquaint themselves with some old faces. Catching up with people from outside the bubble offers a reminder that life beyond this town does indeed exist. Perhaps visit friends at other universities, or if you’re spending reading week at home, reach out to anyone who’s about. Once again, it merely provides that pleasant contrast from the St Andrews scene that we all need once in a while. Never mind if your old friends aren’t home; simply demand they flout their uni classes to come back and see you.
5. Catch up on those TV series you have fallen behind on
If you’ve been tirelessly ploughing through an eternity of essays, tests and presentations in the last couple of weeks, there is a good chance you may have missed episodes of Drag Race, Bake Off, or whatever other trash takes your fancy. Now is your chance to truly binge out on the episodes you’ve fallen behind on without the guilt of feeling as though you should be getting stuck into the pile of work on your desk – that is, assuming you’ve taken notice of point 3.
6. Prepare for post-reading week events
If you find yourself bored during reading week, it is important not to forget the exciting post-reading week events St Andrews has to offer; Halloween, balls, and more. Prepare for these during reading week to avoid the thirty-first of the month rolling round and realising it entirely slipped your mind to prepare an outfit for House of Horrors.
7. Take a holiday
The means to take a holiday in reading week is not something everyone has at their disposal, but taking the time to enjoy one last drop of sun as the days draw shorter and the temperature plummets is certainly an attractive opportunity, and one sure way to make your reading week far from sad.
8. Relax and recuperate
The overriding message here is the importance of taking the chance for relaxation and recuperation that reading week offers. University life can pile a great deal of pressure on students over the first six weeks, and so, in order to avoid burnout, it is truly fundamental to give yourself the time and care that you know you deserve.