The study environment generates panic.
I’m back at University after taking a year out to work as a professional software developer.
I got back and instantly found everything so incredibly stressful.
Moreso than I felt before during my earlier years at University and certainly more than I’d felt at all during my work years.
It took me a couple of weeks, but I think I’ve figured out a few reasons why making the transition from professional work, back to being a student is so tough.
The first, and possibly biggest issue I’m having is the fragmented days.
Most days during the week I have some lectures. Often, it’s two or more different modules on the same day, sometimes in different buildings.
The problem with this is that I spend the whole day wildly context-switching .
Not just switching between discrete tasks, like one might do at work, but entirely different mindsets, technologies, and problems.
I’ll be switching from thinking about my Concurrent and Real Time Systems course, its coursework, and the project I’m making for that. Then break for a couple of hours, during which I might have a meeting or spend time working on plans for the society I lead before switching into the next module’s session (maybe OpenSource Development for example) .
I spend the whole day never spending more than about two hours on a particular module or task before switching to another, never finishing anything before having to move onto another thing.
To exacerbate this is that I might also be moving my physical location as well as my mental one. Having to get up and move across campus for the next session when I haven't reached a good point of closure on the one I’m working on.
This way of working makes me feel like I never manage to finish things. I feel like the end of a particular piece of work is never in sight because I can’t work on it long enough at any one time to feel like I’ve achieved something or gotten closer to completion.
Taking your work home
Because I never manage to get anything substantial done during the working day, I have to bring my work home with me.
Taking one’s work home is a fundamental part of University life, as every student will know.
You are never finished, you’ve always got something you should be doing right now, instead of relaxing or seeing friends.
This results in whenever I’m not working towards my degree, I feel like I should be.
I feel like I’m wasting my time doing whatever else I’m doing because I should be working.
This leads to a lot of stress, because one can never relax properly when they’ve always got work on the mind.
Having to wait for the information
While this might not affect other students who have less prior knowledge and experience on their topic than myself, having to wait to be told things because of the plan the course leader set out is incredibly frustrating.
For the past year, I’ve been used to having the project brief set out and being released to go and produce the project (including, of course, doing all the planning and research needed before implementation).
At University, you know you’re going to have to do something but the lecturers hold off on telling you exactly what you need to be producing.
Instead, they tend to release a new piece of information every week. So no matter how much you already know, or how fast you got the work for this week finished, you’re not going to know what you need to do next until the next scheduled lecture.
This results in me knowing that there's a deadline in the future, but having no idea what I need to be doing to make sure that I manage to hit that deadline with everything finished.
In business, you get told what you’re doing and it’s up to you to plan your time and get done what you need to get done to make sure the project hits the deadline.
Yes, there are hold ups that you can’t always get around. But, because you know the whole scope of the project and what you need to get finished, there is normally something else you can work on so you’re not wasting time.
General stressful environment
A big factor that contributes to my general stress is feeling the stress of everyone around me.
University is so full of people who are in no way relaxed. People who are out of their depths. Lecturers reminding you of the deadlines so you don’t forget.
University just feels buzzing with stress-fuelled energy, and it doesn't help anyone.
Maybe it’s me?
But also, it might just be me.
I’m stressed already and I’m only a couple of weeks into term.
My deadlines feel like they’re on top of me, even though they’re all in November.
My society needs constant attention and planning (with help from a fantastic committee)
I moved back into my parents and had to store most of my stuff.
I need to plan my Final Year Project, somehow (I have no supervisor yet)
I’m speaking at some conferences soon.
I haven’t got any work, and not much money.
Soon I have to start proper work with Coventry Pride again.
So yeah, a lot on my plate and University is not helping much.
Thanks for reading this a-bit-of-a-rant post.