Reading Week Crept Up On You? Let’s Talk About That

Yes, the semester only started about a month ago. Yes, we’re already near the halfway point. And yes, all semesters are this insanely short, as any veteran student will confirm. Universities across the country tend to mark this midpoint in teaching with Reading Week, which is essentially the same as Half Term from school. The bad news is, you still have lots of studying to do. The good news: at least you don’t have classes.

For us at KCL, Reading Week begins on 29th October. As you stare lovingly at your empty timetable, plans to go out, live your best life and party the week away may fill your mind. It is a tempting idea, especially if this is your first Reading Week. Unfortunately, it never works out that way – at least it never seems worthwhile once you get back to uni. As I said earlier, you’re still expected to study and, you know, read on Reading Week. It’s a trick as well as a treat.

Of course, what and how much you’re expected to do over Reading Week largely depends on which course you’re doing. I don’t imagine that the university expects its STEM students to hijack laboratories and computer rooms to test a hypothesis. What it boils down to, simply, is a defined time during which students can study and work independently. That means going beyond catching up with set readings and making time to delve into the terrifying lists of ‘further readings’ each module comes tacked with.

For Arts & Humanities students there likely won’t be much of a perceptible change, given the few contact hours per week those courses have, so take the time to get through some of those novels you bought but never read. It also works as a time for you to figure out what you’ve enjoyed studying so far in your modules, which in turn determines the direction your studies in (and out of) university will take.

I’m aware that I’m coming across as Captain Killjoy, however it may come as comfort to you that it isn’t all bad news. Remember those fantasies you were having about unfettered freedom? You can still make them a reality – sort of. Like everything in the real world, it’s not quite as easy as we’d like it to be.

The key is balance. Your tutor may expect you to stumble your way through a thousand lines of epic poetry as well as a couple of critical essays to shore up your understanding, yet never forget that they were students too. They’re not asking you to become Research-Bot because they know students see Reading Week in effect as a week off, and they adjust their requests appropriately. Any fears you may have that your tutors will choke your free time out of you with hundreds of essays are completely misguided. If you’ve midterms to complete for assessment, you’ll likely notice how minor they are in comparison to the end-semester assignments and exams. Reading Week isn’t going to make or break your grade.

In short, despite it seeming like such a different time to regular uni timetabling, Reading Week is largely no different to your usual free time between contact hours. It isn’t a holiday, a free week to toss your studies and responsibilities away, like you might be hoping it is. Similarly, it’s not nothing. It’s an uninterrupted week of independent study, work, and downtime. The hours and days you have are yours to use as you like but use them wisely. Enjoy Halloween with those around you; studying is a good excuse to keep some treats for yourself, I’ve discovered.