By Bethan Hearne
It’s so easy to come home from a really busy term and be tempted to do one of two things. Either work every single day to try and catch up from term time, because no matter how hard you try, there is always work to do. Or, the other tempting thing is to completely detach from university and do no work at all focussing on recuperating from an exhausting term and spending much needed time with family, friends and loved ones. The reality is that neither of these things are a good option when it comes to a vac. Because if you work the whole time you will just be exhausted when you return back and you won’t be able to work optimally preparing for tutorials and going to lectures. But on the other hand if you do no work at all then you will go into collections badly prepared which stands you in a bad stead for the rest of the term.
I definitely got the balance wrong the first few term breaks that I had from university. I felt very overwhelmed by the first term that - struggling with home sickness and finding the work extremely difficult. I spent every single day apart from one day off at Christmas tirelessly working to breaking point and my first few days back in Hilary term after the Christmas break I had a complete breakdown as I had just worked myself way too hard. I managed to get through that term somehow, it was a real struggle, and sat my exams but I have slowly learned from that and realised that it is important to rest too.
I am going to share with you some of the tips that I have figured out through trial and error on the best way to balance work and play while on your vac:
TIP 1 - Have the first week off no matter what
You definitely have to have some complete detachment from university. First week work is a no-go. Unless you have coursework or something where there is no choice. I have figured out that setting an amount of time where you do not make yourself feel guilty for not working is a great option. I always try to catch up with my friends and family in that first week, have a few takeaways, go to the beach and completely forget about university.
After a week of doing nothing I definitely feel extremely refreshed and almost ready by the second week to get some work under way - especially when there are exams the following term. So have a week off and then slowly start getting back into the work schedule.
TIP 2 - Scheduling
Being home is completely different from being in uni. You have distractions such as Sunday lunches with family, random friends dropping a text to hang out. For this reason I have found it is important to use a set schedule for the week of what I want to get done and between which hours I will work. I don’t really like to set out a whole day hour by hour as I never know how long things will take me but I'll set, for example, 4 hours every afternoon between 12 and 4pm where I will work and I will devise a to do list every morning to make sure I get done what needs to be done.
TIP 3 - Get off your phone!
I find that it’s easy to waste time watching tv and playing on your phone when you are with people you are comfortable with but I always find myself regretting not having proper conversations and proper catch ups if I do so, therefore I try to put my phone away as much as possible in the vac to have a bit of a social media detox and spend worthwhile time with family. Plus, phones while trying to work are a major distraction. One bonus tip I have for phone distractions is downloading the app ‘Forest’. You set a period of time for example an hour, and it will grow a digital tree while you are working - if you go on your phone at any point during that time the tree will die and you fail. You build up points and can eventually with enough points can plant a real tree in the rainforest! So - you’re saving the environment as well as yourself a lot of wasted time!!
I know that these tips are often harder to follow than they sound and I myself will have to remember to be kind to myself as well as disciplined this vac as I have big exams coming up! Hope these help those of you who feel guilty not working in the vac feel a bit better and those of you that don’t work at all a bit of a push to put yourself in a good position for Trinity Term :)