And so I'll read a book, Or maybe two or three*
by Sara Visan
I uprooted my entire life and moved to the other side of the continent, to pursue my dream master's degree! Leaving behind everything that I knew including a work timetable that had been filled with daily overtime and long commutes.
As a master's student, I found myself, suddenly, with a lot more free time. This semester classes take up six hours each week and there is a lot of reading and course work, but there’s a certain kind of freedom that comes with being able to organize your time as you please. A freedom that I personally haven’t felt in a while. I have found that the possibility of empty hours is less about the boredom and more about the blank of possibilities waiting to happen.
I’m one of the lucky people who, across my academic journey, has been able to pursue things I’ve been passionate about at that moment in time. For me, the line between studying and non-studying is blurred. I majored in two foreign languages for my undergraduate degree, and I’m now studying gender studies. All my hobbies are in one way or another, connected to these interests. Or maybe the line is more of a table, and my personal and studious selves are sitting together?
So how am I filling my new-found free time?
I recently signed up for sign language classes. I’ve been learning BSL, which is extremely refreshing since it relies on my muscle memory and visual learning techniques. I always wondered why we are not taught sign language in school and now I am doing something about it!
I’ve been wearing a bracelet on my left hand (my main hand), both as a visual cue of my movements as I follow along to videos and a reminder to practise the signs I’ve memorized so far in the mirror.
Practising signing in the mirror
The photo shows me signing part of "age" (full 'age' would have the fingers moving). BSL is very dynamic, and it's definitely hard to capture it in a photo!
My love of books and Spanish!
It’s my one-year anniversary of studying Spanish – I decided on a relatively easy language, similar to my mother tongue. I own two of my favourite books in Spanish (The Little Prince and Pride and Prejudice), and my friend from Puerto Rico, believing in my progress, is now sending me memes in Spanish every couple of days.
My interest in languages led me to volunteer as a translator for an internet platform dedicated to educating children in vulnerable situations from Eastern Europe, and I spend quite a few hours every week on this project.
I really love reading; my most read genre at the moment is actually non-fiction, especially focused on feminist or environmental issues. Although I read in my spare time, every book I finish becomes a foundation of who I am as a student as well, because the subjects are so obviously and strongly interwoven. At this point I’m not sure I can say what came first: my interest in pursuing a degree in my subject or my love for reading on these topics. A chicken and egg situation!
Netflix is a girl's best friend!
So, obviously I’m quite a bookish, introverted person. I enjoy studying, and I enjoy learning even when I’m not studying something directly related to my degree. Both these things give me a purpose, but it can also lead to me occasionally feeling burned out. When that happens, Netflix is a girl’s best friend! There’s a saying that once you hit your twenties, you’ll get back into what you enjoyed in middle school, but with no guilt attached anymore, and I find that it’s actually true for me. I spend nights binging anime, all in one go because I cannot stand cliff-hangers, or reworking story ideas I first had when I was sixteen (but now maybe I have the writing skills to back them up).
Keeping in touch with family and friends
My favourite thing to do with friends is to go coffee shop hopping, going from place to place, eating cake and talking about everything under the sun.
My friends are spread over five continents and it’s a bit difficult to keep up with them because of time zones and all of us having separate, busy lives. So instead we took up letter writing, pacing the words we send to each other, adding drawings and small presents in each envelope, a sign of affection that might take weeks or months in-between, and yet so much more important exactly because of that.
Out of the five months I’ve been living in Lancaster, I was in self-isolation for the first two weeks after I arrived, and since then several months of various local or national lockdowns. My housemate helps to make the situation bearable. We started baking cakes that remind us of home and sharing them with each other, and we’ve found a song which is a collaboration between two singers from our respective countries.
Sometimes I call my family and, because of the time difference, my first meal of the day is generally their lunch, so we sit down together as we used to in reality when I lived with them.
One of the things I’m most looking forward to is hugging my best friend. She lives in London and we last saw each other right before the pandemic, almost a year now (and the longest we’ve been apart before). Everyone who ever saw us together told me that my visible happiness rises by 70% each time I’m near her! I love London because most museums are free, and I can just walk inside a building and look at a Van Gogh painting, or admire clothing from centuries past and oceans over. And I know for sure that once it’s safe, I’ll be right there in my favourite city, by my favourite person’s side, making up for lost time.
*Lyrics from “When Will My Life Begin”, from Disney’s Tangled
Sara is studying MA Gender and Women’s Studies and English at Lancaster University.
Lancaster University employs students to create authentic content from a student perspective. All views expressed in this article are those of the students, and do not necessarily reflect the views or position of Lancaster University.