Serena Kerrigan-Noble

English Language and Literature at Oxford

I’m Serena (she/her), a second year English Language and Literature student studying at Lincoln College, Oxford and I’m going to be taking you through a day in my life studying.
My day begins usually at 6:30-7:00 am during term time because I like to get up early to give myself enough time to get ready at my own pace and start working earlier so I can also finish earlier. However, during the vacation when I don’t have any imminent essay deadlines, I usually get up around 7:30-8:00 am.

I usually start working at around 9:30-10:00 am during the vacation, although I would start working at 7:30-8:00 am during term time. During this vacation I was given two reading lists, one for Literature in English 1760-1830 covering Romantic poets such as Keats, Shelley, Blake and Byron and novels like Francis Burney’s Evelina, as well as a Shakespeare reading list. I also have an essay to write on ‘Sentiment and Sociability’ in the eighteenth-century novel, so I have spent about a week doing secondary reading for the essay, taking notes from the novel itself and planning my essay. My days during the vacation period are usually spent reading as much as I can from the reading lists, taking notes, and reading secondary articles and books about what I’m reading. It sounds like a lot but it’s actually really fun because I get to read lots of new books!

I always write down a list of things I need to do before I start my working day and I pick three main priorities or goals for that day. Today my three goals were to write two paragraphs of my essay, continue doing secondary reading for my Shakespeare paper and write this article. I find that breaking tasks into smaller chunks makes them feel a lot more manageable and organising my time carefully means that I have the time to take my time writing and editing. I take regular breaks every 2-3 hours so that when I am working, I am more focused and I find that this works for me, although some people work better for smaller periods of time and taking more frequent breaks. At the moment I’m working from 9:00-11:00 am and then taking a break and resuming work at 11:15, then taking a lunch break at either 12:30 or 13:00, then resuming work until 15:00 when I take another break, and then resuming work until 17:00 or 18:00. The times are not rigid and they do change day to day but I try to stick to them as much as possible so that my day is clearly structured and I still have time to relax. I try to finish working during vacation time by 20:00, but during term time this might end up being 21:00 or 22:00, it really depends on how much work I have.

There is a fast turn-around of deadlines during term time so I do find that I have to be even more careful about how I manage my time so that I give myself enough time to research, plan, write, reference and edit my essays. I usually allocate 2-3 days for secondary reading and 1-2 days to write the essay and a morning to reference it. I find this quite tight but it is manageable as long as you stick to timeframes and stay focused and I always feel proud when I hand in a piece of work. Tutorials take place for me on Thursday or Friday, which means that my essays are normally due on Wednesday morning. This means that as soon as I finish an essay, I start the next one, so I start reading on Wednesday after I hand in my essay, carry on reading into Thursday and Friday, use the weekend to plan and start writing my essay and usually have it referenced and edited either by Tuesday or on Wednesday morning. Sometimes, if I feel like I need to do more secondary reading, I end up planning my essays on Sunday or Monday and then writing it on Tuesday which is a bit tighter but manageable.

I also make sure to keep up with lectures, which are recorded at the moment. If I do miss a lecture than I always allocate time at the end of the week to catch up with them. I also have two classes on alternate weeks which I often have to do presentations for, and which also require reading and preparation so I need to make sure that I balance my time between class preparation and essay writing. On Wednesdays I mentor a Sixth-Form student online about the Oxbridge application process and write articles for the Oxbridge Launchpad either every week or every alternate week. Overall, I try to balance getting my work done to the best of my ability as well as making time to do other things I enjoy, whether that means watching a film or (if I’m not tired from reading all day) reading a book I’m not studying. I think it’s important to schedule your time well throughout the day, even if it means getting up earlier, so that you don’t end up working through the night and I always leave some time at the end of the day to relax and just put any outstanding commitments on a list for me to attend to the next day.