Health and Wellbeing Lifestyle

An Evolving Study Space

As those who have watched me write any essay this year will tell you, my studying style is somewhat erratic. Whilst the mechanics of setting myself up are fairly straight-forward (making copious amounts of tea and opening my laptop,) my use of space is different to that of my friends.

My preferred space in an ‘work crisis’ is my uni room. I have a habit of switching position a lot when working, a habit I find conducive to essay-writing but not to making library friends. My natural restlessness keeps me on my toes: moving from the desk, to the bed, to the floor and back again. I’ll mix it up with different positions if I’m feeling particularly energetic.

My favourite, on a non-wheely chair, is sort of a squat. I often find myself in the position without realising; suddenly my feet are on the chair and I’m in a sort of yoga pose. Except it’s not half as elegant and my fingers are tapping away to increase the all-important word-count before the deadline. The added danger of this seating arrangement adds to the urgency somewhat, but the crucial part of this position is that the chair has to have no wheels.

Unfortunately, my family are not as used to the sound of me crashing to the floor as my friends are. Given that my brother had ‘borrowed’ my designated study chair whilst I was away, I let him keep it and now enjoy the creakiest chair of all time. This has been a blessing in disguise.

This ex-kitchen chair has been battered and broken, with battle scars to prove it. Puppy teeth marks, paint splatters and scratches galore show up its patchy, wooden exterior. When I shift my weight, even a little, it serves as a menacing reminder that it’s Trinity term and I should be working.

Alongside the chair, the position of my desk is critical. Although I loved having space at the end of my bed for the yoga session that never happened, the desk was not in the right spot. Facing the window all day meant I could stare off into the distance as birds soared past and my dogs made their best efforts to catch them.

My family also loved it, popping by on their way to sunbathe in the garden with trusty blankets. The mime-shows made me chuckle at moments, and the respites of conversation were welcome to my procrastination-prone brain.

A burst of energy led me to rearrange my room. My family now have to either enter via the door or tap loudly on the window to speak to me, a boundary which has led to more productive study habits for me. It also has the added benefit of providing a more appropriate view of my room on video calls.

As far as I’m aware, my course-mates weren’t judging me for the array of kitchen equipment, bike helmets, water bottles and bags that are shoved on top of my cupboards for safe-keeping. However, looking at the image on my laptop made me question whether I wanted my tutors to have this view of my room. In conclusion, I decided they were perhaps more likely to grant essay extensions – should I ever need them – if I maintain an image of being organised as a human being. It also presents a better view of our house that my mum would approve of, without having to cull my kitchen equipment collection.

We also have far less awkward moments since I installed a ‘je suis studying’ sign on my door. A blu-tack dot on a cue card informs the family of my current task; moving sporadically between ‘on a break’, ‘chilled studying’, ‘focused burst’ and ‘omg, don’t come in, i’m on a video call’ boxes. In order to maintain the efficiency of this system, I’ve made promises to react appropriately depending on the state of the dot. This a scaled system from ‘Come on in for a chat’ to ‘Is this a life or death situation?’ and so far, we’ve only had one webcam incident where I forgot to change the dot position beforehand.

Studying from home is sub-optimal for most of us, but we find ourselves stuck in the position of having to make the most of it. I feel lucky to have a desk, and a space that my parents don’t mind me rearranging furniture in. The biggest thing I’ve learnt in the first two weeks of Trinity is that making things easy for me to study helps me to stop thinking about what’s happening the world for an hour and two. Instead, I can focus on the problem sheet and imagine that I’m sitting in my college room.

I’ve also learnt that one method isn’t going to work for me, but that experimentation is key to keep myself motivated to study. My studying style has evolved since secondary school (no more binging TV whilst doing homework) but Covid-19 has forced it to mature at a faster rate.

Scheduling a Monday morning ‘catch-up’ call with my friend, striking a pose like I did all year every time I walked past her door when she pops on my screen, restores a sense of normality to the Oxford term. Whilst I still haven’t figured out how to recreate bumping into friends around college or on the way to lectures, I’m working on it. Given that my pseudo-Trinity experience involves a puppy, I feel like I’m not doing too badly whilst I wait to be physically allowed to go back to Oxford.