The thing you miss out on most as a part time student is the partying. There’s no bars or cheap drinks or week night booze ups, mostly because work gets in the way of that. As in, get up early rise and shine it’s six-a-friggin-clock work, not essays and tutorials and student work. I have spent so little time in clubs and bars, I often feel like I am out of practise when I drink. It’s like I skipped the requisite live close to a pub and puke a trail home stage of life.
Don’t get me wrong- I spent a large proportion of my teens drunk or planning how I could get drunk. Cider in a field was a staple of countryside life. House parties were all the rage when I was sixteen. I got systematically hammered throughout sixth form. But it was all house parties and safety and near my parents’ home. I never had a wild time away.
That’s the real difference between part time study and full time, undergrad experience. I miss out on the partying and the student life and the exhilaration of being in that elite, but I know without a shadow of a doubt that I’m as intelligent as any of them. I understand that Oxford is a system and you learn to work with it. I can see further than the next essay, the next tutorial. I know that even if I fail, I can try again, I can come back to it. Life’s not as short as they tell you at school. If you miss out on uni, you can go back. It’s sometimes harder, but sometimes it’s not. I don’t get to do shots in a line with people I barely know but am really happy with at that moment, but I do get a tutor who values me, who knows me and is interested in whether I pass or fail. My tutor is happy to listen to me panic about whether I’m doing the right thing, she can understand when I don’t get the work done. I get to study at Oxford, without being part of the rat race that leaves people shell shocked.
I don’t get to party like a student. But I went to my aunt’s sixtieth birthday party tonight. There was music, dancing, drinking and a pub at the end of the night. We drunk and sang and laughed more than I have in years. I go to gigs, local bands and pub open mics. I do pub quizzes and book club and queer nights. I go on marches and work with the homeless and so many things that I could never have done if I wasn’t a part time student. Not because students don’t, but because I wouldn’t. It suits me. I like quiet nights in, parties, family, and I love literature, which I get to study for fun in my free time. My university life is like a hobby. I do it because I love the subject and want to immerse myself in it sometimes, to have that honour. My part time course is relaxed, the demands are not rigorous. All that’s really expected is a passion for the subject. The rest falls in. I love the reading, the wide variety of texts and the doors the course opens up to me. I love working and having that split focus. I love being able to put my studies aside and live apart from them.
Featured image: Ed Webster