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28th February 2023

Switching on your ‘university brain’

A long break from uni is both a gift and a curse. Finally, we get a moment to breathe, to switch off, and relax. But, this only makes coming back to uni in January harder. Lifestyle discusses the trials and tribulations of switching on your ‘university brain’
Switching on your ‘university brain’
Photo: Shubham Sharan @ Unsplash

Coming back after a long holiday break, it can feel as though you need to switch back into the university mindset: back into the flow of doing assigned readings, getting up earlier, and back into a consistent schedule. But I think that a large part of this switch – this adjustment – is not just academic, but social.

Time off from uni always seems to come right at the point of getting burnt out. A welcome respite from the continuous grind, to pull a phrase out of the Instagram entrepreneurs’ handbook. Reading yet another academic article on your phone (in the tiniest print) while standing in the hallway moments before walking into your tutorial – just to find out it was the wrong one – then having to start next week’s incredibly dry 40-page excerpt. Squeezing out an extra 200 words of ramble just to reach a word count, or worse still, having to cut 200 words back from an entirely crucial paragraph. All that to then get an entirely average grade.

Then, suddenly you are back in your childhood home again, and for all the fun that uni is – surrounded by peers your own age, staying up late with your house chatting around the kitchen table, house parties with niche themes, societies and socials – it is nice to take a “small” break.

So you are home, a new level of sloppiness even your housemates have not quite been privy to just yet, achieved. Hey, it’s cheap (free), meals are provided, and in some ways you are not an “adult” anymore. You do not necessarily regress, but a certain independence is lost (for good and for bad) as you fall back under the hierarchy of child and parent.

Most of all there is an ease that cannot quite manifest in a few blink-and-you-miss-it years alone. A literal lifetime of living amongst the same people allows for a complete disregard of a social face. This is not to say that you do not become comfortable in your shared university house, because of course you do! Embarrassing stories shared, moments experienced together, the most inane and dull moments of a day seen. But at home these moments have already been had, several times over, times you can not really remember anymore, no cut-off point of a couple of Septembers ago.

After a holiday that both dragged and flew by, you are back to university, in all your independence. I personally got butterflies on the bus to my uni house. It was the oddest thing. It felt like a diluted version of walking into my first-year flat, ready to meet my flatmates for the first time, ready for full autonomy.

The effortless way I spoke to them all was suddenly a little nerve-racking after almost six weeks of hibernation. But the great thing is that after the first five seconds of standing there in the hallway, slightly strangled by all your layers, fingers gaining awkward little calluses from where they were pinched between your suitcase handle and rings, your housemates crowd round, hugs aplenty.

They all missed you! The house is once again full, you just hope you (or your housemates) have not undergone some kind of Christmas metamorphosis, suddenly not clicking as you should, not funny as you once were. It’s a clunky little process. Getting your sea legs back, or whatever the equivalent is for coming back to university.

But it does happen. I often find (as embarrassing as it is) that the cliches are in fact true. And so when I say this too shall (and does) pass, I do not mean it like an ironic wall hanging you get to decorate the kitchen (something like ‘Eat Glitter for Breakfast and Sparkle!’), but rather that feeling of disjointness after abruptly changing environments makes complete sense.

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