Find out what life is really like at Durham University

DepartmentsStudent experienceUndergraduate

A Day In The Life Of An English Student


It’s well known that arts and humanities students have, for better or for worse, very few contact hours. That said, I reckon English could give the rest a run for their money in the ‘what’s a lecture?’ league table. Indeed, life as a third-year English student involves careful management of my own time and cracking on with reading and big projects like the dissertation. With that in mind, here are some of the things I get up to in an average day.


After an 8:30am alarm, I’ll often start my day with an hour of reading the texts for my course. As well as a great way to defer actually getting out of bed, it’s important that I make progress through the reading list before texts are required for essays or tutorials. Luckily, I really like my modules this year so the reading is enjoyable as well as productive. Currently, I’m making my way through Patricia Highsmith’s ‘The Talented Mr. Ripley’.

A small selection of my dissertation reading

Lecture and tutorials

On an average day I might have one lecture or tutorial, or maybe a two-hour seminar for my Ballads and Popular Romance special topic. Today, for example, I made the familiar trip to Elvet Riverside for an American Fiction Lecture on Huckleberry Finn. As a general rule, I prefer to take notes by hand and revisit them later at home. Unfortunately, the English Department has opted to not take up the new Lecture Capture system so good notes are vital!

Part-time jobs

Often, I’ll spend a good portion of my day on my part-time jobs. Currently, I help with the communication of Lecture Capture (also styled ‘Encore’) to students. I also have an internship with the Durham Uni Marketing Department, who advertise for Bloggers, Vloggers and Instagramers around May every year via the student employment service.

On average, this work will take up 4-6 hours a week and is a great way to add to my CV and have a change of scene from books and essays.

Thinking beyond Durham

Another key part of my final year is thinking about life after university. I’ll often spend 15 minutes a day checking for vacancies in areas I’m interested in or firing off applications with my fingers crossed.


After hours sitting at my desk, it’s always great to get some exercise at cross-country training. Every Tuesday and Thursday evening I head down to Maiden Castle for some grueling running drills in preparation for the next competition.

Once home, I’ll have dinner and catch up with my housemates. Unless we’ve got a night out planned, I generally aim to be in bed for 11, but late-night essay writing can always get in the way!

More information 

To get a prospectus about our English Literature course and related subjects order here.

Watch a film about undergraduate study at Durham here.

Alex Hewitt

I’m Alex, a third year English student at Grey College, originally from Bedfordshire. So far at Durham I’ve been involved with writing for Palatinate and The Bubble as well as volunteering with Student Community Action and helping to promote their fantastic projects. I’m also a keen runner and you’ll find me tackling Durham’s hills.
Sign up to our Mailing List