A week in the life of a Modern Languages finalist
Good morning! As the title suggests, I’ve decided to share a week in my life, as I’ve always found these one of the best ways to get an idea of what studying at Warwick will be like, regardless of what degree you choose. This is everything I got up to in Week 8 of Term 1, and will hopefully give you an idea of what Warwick looks like with bLeNdEd learning and pandemic precautions. Enjoy….
Wake up, get ready and head to campus for my first class of the week, which is a 9AM Spanish translation seminar. This, along with most of my classes, takes place face-to-face, so that means mask on, 2m distanced desks, disinfectant before and after using the desk, and no turning around. Despite all the precautions, the class does feel relatively normal, and it is lovely to still see friends and teachers, even if they are across the room. After discussing various techniques to translate narratives, I head to the Oculus (the fancy building you see on all Warwick promotional content) and get some homework and seminar preparation done before my next class, Italian oral. I also submitted my first summative (an essay that counts towards my final grade) of the year, which was a 1,500 word close-analysis of a film for my Italian cinema module.
After finishing Italian oral, which has the same conditions as my Spanish class, I head back home to Canley for some lunch, before my last class of the day which is Spanish oral. This takes place online through MS Teams, and personally, I don’t mind virtual classes. It is quite a contested issue though, as naturally some people are more suited to different learning environments. Seeing as the SMLC (School of Modern Languages and Cultures) is offering a blended learning environment, using both face to face and online teaching, this does mean everyone can experience their preferred style a bit, which is a positive! Other departments, which are much larger, are not as able to offer face to face classes as there is just not enough space. So I’m lucky!
After my Spanish oral class, which was spent discussing Generation Z, I head to Tesco to buy some food, and then spend the evening watching bits of Netflix, cooking dinner and talking with my flatmates. I don’t feel particularly guilty, having spent the weekend in the library finishing that summative…
Spent the morning doing a workout and watching a movie for my Russian class, as well as organising a presentation for my Spanish Oral class next week. And attempting to finishing the endless stream of Russian homework…
At midday, I headed off to campus for my Spanish writing class, which occurs in the usual campus-conditions. We discuss critical commentaries, and ways to approach writing them. Immediately after, I dashed home for some lunch, before heading back to campus for my Italian writing seminar. This is the eternal student conundrum: the combination of poorly timetabled seminar classes (I should point out this is my fault, as we do get to pick our times) and food going off means prioritising eating at home, but having to trek across Coventry for a day.
I finish the Italian writing seminar, where we also discussed critical commentaries, although of course with a completely different approach, and head home with my flatmate. Typically, I try and do some homework now to get ahead for the week, however, in order to keep the spirits high, my house decided to have a raclette-night. If you don’t know what that is, essentially it’s a version of cheese fondue using raclette cheese and a rather fancy machine. Despite us only ordering half a wheel (so only 4kg of cheese for four of us), it seems Costco got confused, and sent us two halves, meaning we now have 8kg of cheese in our tiny student-house fridge. As a result, this is now our second raclette night… We indulged whilst watching The Great British Bake Off finale, although I must admit I spent most of it on the floor in pain due to being so full. Also, if you are a fan of the bake off, I hope you agree that Hermine was robbed.
Woke up to hideous weather and a sore hip and decided to feel sorry for myself. Still, I managed to haul myself out of bed and out the door to go to my aforementioned Italian cinema module seminar. In light of the pandemic, my “lectures” for this module were made online and asynchronous, meaning our teacher records the lecture and uploads it a week before our seminar, so we can watch it in our own time. Seminars, however, occur in person or online depending on personal situations and timetables. Within this weeks seminar, we discussed the 2002 film Respiro, specifically the role of nature and gender.
Head back home and put some laundry on. After this seminar, my week quietens down somewhat, with fewer classes and commitments. I personally like to front-load my week, putting as many classes as possible on Monday and Tuesday, so I can use the rest of the week to do all my reading and homework. I also work part-time (remotely) on Wednesdays and Thursdays (thankfully, my company lets my take the occasional hour off for my classes) so I spent the rest of the day mainly doing work for that. I did, however, have a 15 minute Teams call with my lecturer for the cinema module to discuss my essay that I have to do over the Christmas break. I also had an hour long speaking class for Russian over Teams in the afternoon. This was not originally timetabled at the beginning of the year, however, seeing as most of our class were unable to get to Russia during our year abroads, most of us need the practice and asked for an extra hour to be timetabled in, which the Russian department gladly did! This flexibility is one of the benefits of online classes. In the evening, I took a break from the cheese and made enough red thai curry to last me to the end of the week. Batch cooking queen!
Woke up to better weather but a still sore hip, so decided to take it easy and go for a morning walk before my day. I also stopped off at Aldi on the way home to buy some bread to cure my toast craving. Once eaten, I headed back up to my room and spent the rest of my day there. I mostly have no classes on Thursdays, and so this is where I get the most homework and part-time job stuff done.
I say “mostly” because I do technically have hour-long cultural class for Russian on a Thursday. These were introduced recently for final year language students who study a language in the language centre, and therefore don’t get to study cultural modules for that language. This module operates a blended learning strategy, where some weeks we have to watch lecture capture recordings about various Russian history topics, and other weeks we meet online for a seminar style discussion about whatever we watched the week before. We also get recommended films to watch and books to read, so it really is what you make of it. At the end of the year, we need to produce a short essay or video documentary about any topic of our choosing that relates to our country. In this week, I only had to watch a lecture about Stalinism, so I watched that as well as the lecture for my cinema class for the following week, in between cracking on with an Italian translation and some Russian grammar homework. I’d love to say I did something interesting in the evening, but I just ate more red thai curry, worked a bit and chatted with my flatmates.
Woke up feeling rather alive, so cracked on with some seminar reading for my cinema module! I also fit in a meeting with some other Italian translation students to plan our work for the week. Language classes are usually split into grammar & writing, oral and translation (although this does vary depending on the language) and each section is led by a different professor. This year, however, Italian translation is done entirely asynchronously, meaning we do not have class and every week the teachers upload tasks and assignments to our E-learning platform for us to do. Regrettably, this is usually group work, the bane of most students lives, I’m sure. However, this week I had a lovely group, and over a quick call we had to correct a rather awful Italian translation of an article about the commemorative Brexit coin. With that finished, I headed off to my final class of the week, which is Russian grammar in the Oculus. Masks on of course, we spent two hours discussing various complex sentences and converting nouns into adjectives. Brain fried, I took a very long route back to Canley, before I settled in for the weekend, getting a few bits of homework done and completing a zoom quiz with my flatmates.
Continued riding high on the rush of energy I had the day before, and woke up early to go to the library and even some of my friends there (socially distanced of course). Usually I spend my Saturdays lounging around which inevitably means a Sunday spent guiltily catching up on work before the start of the next week, so I was quite impressed with myself. I spent around four hours reading for my essay for the cinema module, doing some Russian grammar homework, and preparing an Italian oral presentation on the inherent sexism in the language.
After teaming through my pile of books, and picking up a new fiction book to read this week, I left the library and picked up some lunch in the piazza in Warwick. Despite the lockdown, Warwick are still offering some rule-abiding fun to spice up our lives, most notably the Basecamp tent. Situated on the piazza, household bubbles can go and enjoy cheap drinks and a change of scenery. I indulged in a halloumi wrap and a hot chocolate. Went home, before realising I had left my pencil case in the library, and had to immediately walk back. Having smashed my step count for the day, I enjoyed another night in with the flatmates, eating pasta and playing cards. I also started watching the film Knives Out, which was really good.
The day of rest. Sort of. Lounged in bed reading for pleasure in the morning (currently reading The Word for World is Forest by Ursula K. Le Guin) and finally gathered the strength to put my bed sheets in the wash. Finished Knives Out whilst doing some admin. I also had to finish off some Russian homework (do you now see how Russian homework never ends) and I did a timed practice exam for my end-of-term Russian exam. Every year since I’ve been at Warwick, language centre modules have had a 10% reading and writing test at the end of Term 1 to check everything is making sense and allow students who do not study languages as their main degree to practice language exams. This year, however, like most exams (all of my exams), it will be online, so the department gave us a mock test to make sure everyone knows how to upload it, and what to expect. We are allowed to use dictionaries and our notes so it is an entirely different experience to traditional exams.
I then made the worst decision ever, and decided to visit Aldi on the first Sunday after payday. Spent an hour queuing, but survived to tell the tale, and with enough food to last me another week. I then, of course, wrote this blog, reflected on how busy this week has been and decided to take the evening off before starting another week.
So despite how long this blog has been, I hope it has been useful with plenty of insight into how the university is still teaching us both online, face to face, and through uploaded content. I hope it also showed how students are still managing to have a relatively normal experience, and it is possible to enjoy uni, even with all the chaos.
Have a lovely week!