A day in the life of a distance learning postgraduate student
by Amy Oloo
The promise of flexibility is one of the biggest draws of distance learning. This was certainly a key motivator in my decision to pursue an online master’s degree at Lancaster University.
While it's important to note that schedules may vary depending on your course and workload, I have outlined my own experience within this article, hoping to give a snapshot of what one could expect.
In a typical week, I usually have 3 online seminars, and my early mornings are dedicated to attending these. Thereafter, I usually spend 3-5 hours of the day catching up on my course readings and working on any assignments (factoring in an hour for lunch and an episode of whatever it is I’m currently binge-watching).
I tend to spend three days of the week, ie Monday-Wednesday in this fashion; whereby each day is dedicated to a specific module.
Luckily enough, as I’m studying remotely, I’m able to change up the scenery and will often work in different coffee shops or rooms of the house (the chaise lounge).
As may be evident, this structure gives me quite a bit of free time to spend as I’d like.
So what do I do when I’m not studying?
Well, my Thursdays - Sundays are usually set aside to develop the other areas of my life.
Thursdays are designated family days. Since we’re all working from home and are unprecedentedly accessible to each other, my sister and I make an effort to do an activity together every Thursday. ‘Sister Thursdays’ usually consist of trying out a new restaurant, trying an art or cooking class, or going for mani-pedis etc.
I should mention that Thursday evenings, much like Friday and Saturday evenings, usually consist of taking an hour-long walk, coming back home and unwinding with some Netflix, YouTube or an embarrassingly long Tik-Tok browsing session before bed.
Fridays, on the other hand, are just for me. I usually spend the day reading (I’m currently trying to get through a list of classic novels), or watching some TV, catching up on my podcasts, and even sketching and painting (poorly, I might add).
Additional pass time activities include lying by the pool, listening to music and treating myself to a nice, relaxing bath.
As a hard-core introvert, carving some time out to be in my own company has been really useful in helping me stay energised for all the other activities that I have to do during the week.
As for weekends, Saturdays are my day to catch up with friends and fulfil any social obligations, whilst Sundays are usually spent catching up on my Christian podcasts and nurturing my spiritual side.
Finding a balance between the intellectually engaging study days, and these slower, more self-indulgent days has been fulfilling and has allowed me to remain well-rounded, even as a full-time student.
Since I have a day dedicated to each module, I am able to successfully compartmentalize and stay on top of every assignment, assigned reading and social commitments without feeling stressed and overwhelmed. In turn, I have been able to avoid burnout, which I had a tendency for prior to this. A Master's course can be quite intense so without a clear schedule, it would be easy to become overloaded, especially when trying to make time to socialise and make the most out of the postgraduate experience.
I find weekly schedules and goal setting incredibly useful in making sure that I keep some balance and fulfil all my obligations, whilst still making incredible memories of postgraduate study. While I was initially worried that such a schedule would box me into a rigid pattern, I’m glad that I decided to commit. In an ironic twist, my weekly schedule has actually allowed me to have more freedom and time to explore other areas of my life.
Amy is studying LLM in Diplomacy and International Law by distance learning at Lancaster University.
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