Universities are known for housing the pretentious, the professionals, and the partiers. There are all types of people drawn to academia, but one of those types is very particular indeed.
English students, in our multitude, share a common likeness that binds us together in solidarity. We will take a swift moment to identify, to acknowledge and to sympathise. Our plights are the same. We suffer and sacrifice in tandem. We are united in our struggle to decode the texts before us, always before us: in paper or on laptops during lectures and seminars, or flashing in front of eyes as we fall asleep.
If you’re not a part of this sleep-deprived community, then it may be of interest for you to seek us out. Perhaps you might want to be our friend. Perhaps you may want to share your condolences. We will be happy to hear them.
1. Walk, walk, fashion baby
‘It is a truth universally acknowledged that a student in possession of an English degree must be in want of a turtleneck,’ wrote Jane Austen. Well, not quite, but she may as well have, because turtlenecks are more popular amongst the English crowd than her stories. (Sorry, Jane!)
All of these stereotypes about the student poet, turtleneck and all, are absolutely true. You will spot at least three turtlenecks in your university’s resident English department, and they will be accompanied by ultra-indie glasses, or a beanie of some sort.
If, for some shocking reason, an English student is not wearing a turtleneck, then any smart, slightly left-of-centre fashion choice will do. Dungarees are a popular choice, but don’t forget the oversized, block colour jumpers that simply do not go with any piece of clothing ever created.
2. Hunchback of Notre ‘Damn’
If you have at all had the misfortune of inspecting an English student’s backpack, then you have probably thought to yourself: ‘Damn, those books look heavy!’
To put you out of your misery – yes, they are heavy. Extremely heavy. With some modules that prescribe a good dose of 400+ page long books, often for a single week’s study, it is no wonder that English students are particularly at risk of back problems. And don’t get me started on those poetry anthologies!
3. Surrounded by stationery
Notebooks! Folders! Highlighters! If there’s anything an English student loves (aside from thinking about English), it’s a good bit of stationery. This is especially true for us Creative Writing students, for whom carrying a notebook around is essential if not a second nature to us already. Inspiration really can strike at any time! Even in a lecture!
Those notes on literary criticism can become really quite hefty, so don’t be surprised if you see an English student drowning in their numerous notebooks. Just leave them to their folder-flavoured fate. For them, it’s probably the best way to go.
4. Horrifically broke
Do you know what universities never tell English student on their open days? It’s that books are expensive. Super. Expensive.
The end of the university year is accompanied by a specific dread – one that is not related to the knowledge that the end of uni is impending, and that you will have to actually do something with this degree. No, the end of the university year marks the time of a massive spending spree for English students, this time on the many, many books to read for their upcoming modules. With every module each demanding the purchase of up to eight different books – quite often all of them around £10 each, if not more! – it’s frankly a miracle that English students have enough money to eat for the rest of the year.
5. May actually be a vampire
One of the most pressing questions of all time has been that of the nature of English students. Why are English students often reclusive? Is it because of the sheer amount of reading they are forced to undertake throughout the year – or are they naturally averse to sunlight? Have they been bitten by a very old man called Dracula? Will they ever get to feel fresh air on their face again?
We may never know, but for now, other students will look on in fear as the English student emerges for a lecture – pale, bleary-eyed and blinking at the strange orb in the sky, their face pointed towards something other than a book for once.
6. Probably sick of hearing about books (certain ones, anyway)
Now, we love reading. We do. There is a reason, after all, why we have elected to spend 9 grand a year studying the subjects associated with reading.
What you may be surprised to hear, however, is that we can’t always do a lot of other reading. There is so much that we have to read that we simply… don’t have time for anything else. Not if we want to have a balanced lifestyle of books, books, and eating and sleeping, anyway.
Reading for pleasure is therefore sometimes a rarity, treasured and preserved for the precious moment it is. We’ll talk about that until the day we die – but if you expect us to be so enthusiastic about the books that are making us stressed, then you’ll be waiting a long time. We can’t escape them. Have pity on us.