Handling the Holidays

Greetings from Kenya!

I write this post to you from my beautiful home country. I cannot tell you how good it feels to have sun on my skin after a particularly rough start to winter in the UK these past few months. The weather where I am right now is a gorgeous 25°C degrees and not a single cloud in the sky. A stark difference from the 2°C to 8°C and “polar ice winds” that have been ongoing in the UK. “Polar ice winds?”, you ask. They’re just as horrible as they sound. To put it into words, it feels like what I imagine it would feel like to dunk your hand in polar ice water. I may be over-exaggerating, but allow me this, I’m from a country that doesn’t know snow –  15 degrees is chilly to us Kenyans. We haven’t seen any snow in Guildford yet, but I imagine it is to come – it is only December after all. Anyway, I digress …

So, as I’m assuming you’ve gathered by now, I am now home for the holidays. So far, I’ve mostly been catching up on lost sleep (with a little bit of frantic searching for placements). Today, my family and I are going to stay the night in the town of Nanyuki. Tomorrow, we travel further travel up north for a 4-day getaway in Samburu. As of now, we’ve touched down in Nanyuki, beginning the start of our little 5-day Christmas break, and I’ve just gotten back from rhino sanctuary where we got to meet and feed Baraka, a 23-year old blind white rhino.

         

As much as I would like it to, though, sadly, I cannot enjoy this nothingness much longer as being home for the holidays means something a little different when you’re a student (in my case, at least). Even though I’m home for Christmas break, it isn’t all relaxing time as I have two essays due in as soon as we get back to university – one is worth 70% of one of my modules and the other is worth 80%, so … yeah, can’t really afford to slack around with these.

Basically, Surrey is one of the universities that ha their exam period in January, as that is when the official end of the first semester is. So, while we’re all home over the break, there is still some work or reading to be done.

Besides the two essays, I only have two exams for the January period, and they’re a week apart. This is because my course is heavily reliant on coursework, much more than it is on exams. Of the sixteen assessments I have per year (two assessments per module, 4 modules per semester), only 4 are exams, the rest are assignments. It can be a little frustrating at times because that means unlike other courses which are more reliant on exams – where it is sort of slow throughout the year, and then a very busy exam period – with my course, I’m just constantly working, and I only ever get little breaks every so often. Take the current semester for example. Within the space of three weeks I had four assignments to do and hand in – two of which were on topics we had only just learned, and another one on a topic we hadn’t even done yet (for this one, though, I am the one that picked that question, so I did bring that upon myself). On top of this, I still had work and other commitments, so it was a massively busy time for me. After it was all done with, I felt a massive feeling of relief and then awarded myself with a well-deserved half-week period of chill. This only lasted so long though because by then it was two weeks till Christmas break, and I had to catch up on my placement search (which I had neglected on account of how busy I was) and also start thinking of my other two assignments.

Nevertheless, though it might be a lot of work throughout the bulk of the semester, this madness does mean I am freer than others in the January exam period, and have time to focus on just those two exams. This, I guess, is a little of a bit of a silver lining to having to work over Christmas because it means that I have ample amount of time to prepare for each of my assessments – whether assignments or exams – and I can get a longer break between the first and second semester.

 

 

To help ease the workload, I try and do as much as I can on my remaining two assignments before we broke for Christmas so that I have less to do over the break, and therefore have more time to spend with my family and friends, or relaxing and enjoying myself. When it gets to the Christmas week, when there’s lots of activities going on and I don’t get to sit down and work as much, I try to just do a little bit every day – or at least most days. For the beginning week and the end week of the break, when there’s less going on, that’s when I try and sit down and do a good few hours of work as much done as I can. I work better in long, uninterrupted sessions as opposed to bursts of work with several breaks, so it can be a little tricky to navigate around the holiday plans. But, with a little bit of planning and a lot of motivation (it takes a lot to go and hit the books rather than hit the pool), it can be done.

 

So, yes, while I am “home for the holidays”, I’m still not completely switched off academically. I still have quite a bit of work to do which isn’t great. But, at least I get to do it from the comfort of my home, and I still do have time to relax and enjoy the break. Silver linings!