The Penultimate Stretch (1st Week, Trinity Term)

Trinity may be the loveliest of the Oxford terms. The days are growing steadily longer, the steady April showers are giving way (in theory) to colourful May flowers, and colleges have started sending out emails about delightful things like croquet, punting, and garden parties.

Before these beauties could be embraced, however, the results of our ‘vacation’ labours had first to be submitted for the no-doubt eager perusal of our examiners.

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Recovering from Easter Vacation

In our programme, Easter Vacation is just the bit that comes before the due date for our two major essays. My six weeks of “vacation” therefore went something like this:

Weeks 1 & 2: Reading and research at a somewhat leisurely pace, attempting to define exactly what my essay ought to be about.

Easter Weekend: Took a few days off. A gorgeous sunny Good Friday spent with a friend roaming through fields and villages in the Cotswalds.

Week 3: Sick, in bed, miserable, for days. Recovered just enough to be struck down with paralyzing, gut-wrenching and very counter-productive stress, convinced my essays would never be finished in time.

Week 4: Pulled myself together, set myself a goal of 1,000 words/day, and hit the books. Forced to attempt simultaneous writing and research, with mixed results. Began to list the Radcliffe Camera as my home address.

Week 5: Reached the tipping point where the difficulty was no longer writing enough words, but rather cramming in everything under the word limit. Compressed everything into a semblance of an order and dropped off a draft in my supervisor’s pidge for comments. Intended to take a one-day holiday to recover; exhausted brain held out for three.

Week 6 (0th week): Re-attacked my other forgotten essay from Michaelmas Term which had received very thorough comments from the seminar convener during Hilary and now lay in deconstructed pieces which, like Humpty Dumpty, couldn’t be put back together again. Wrestled with the thing for days, mostly attempting every permutation of sentence and paragraph order in an attempt at a coherent argument flow. Resisted the urge to create a bonfire.

Received back my supervisor’s suggestions (unfortunately, sans any affirmative head-patting) on my second paper and attempted to incorporate with a maxed-out word limit, adding and shaving as I went along.

Sat back on Saturday night with two somewhat-shaky but definitely written essays and took a big sigh of relief.

I am very glad the vacation is over . . .