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Studying as a commuting student

Studying as a commuting student

Northern Law Student


Reading time: five minutes

Studying is hard and tiring at the best of times, so finding a routine that works for you is key. But, as a commuting student, it can be hard to get to grip of your organisation!

As I mentioned in my introductory blog post, I’m moving into my second year of studying at the University of Law Manchester while commuting from a lovely, quiet town in the Lake District. That's a two-hour journey into university, and the same home. This means that I’m out of the house from 5.30am to 7.30pm, long, I know!

I’m sharing this in the hope that other commuting students will know that they are not alone, as commuting really can be lonely. Getting your laptop out on the train on a Friday afternoon to spend those commuting hours doing something productive can be (dare I say it….) slightly soul destroying. Swarms of people getting the train preparing for their nights out and sipping cans of Gin and Tonic or a Stella may look at you a questioningly as you whip out your real estate textbook. It can lead you to go: ‘I’ll just work another time’ or ‘This really doesn’t need to be done now’. But soon, once the commuting hours, part-time jobs and other commitments are considered, you’ll find there's less time to study than you thought.

So, let me share my five tips to succeed as a commuting student. It really is doable and with the correct attitude you'll excel.

1. Timetable your life

Organisation is key. My friends and family perhaps think I organise my life a *little* too much. But without a timetable, a busy week means I have little time for university work or relaxing if I’m not careful. Finding time for both is important, so I’m just not prepared to give up this organisational life!

I write down my workshop classes, part-time work and even my ‘me’ time. This means that I can schedule university work around these commitments. For me, time spent going to the gym or going on a run is how I relax. So, Monday and Wednesday evenings are non-negotiable, as I go to gym on these days. This means that the other nights I can work until around 9pm to fit in prep work for university. I also use the commute to university in the morning to study and the return to relax and read. I find scheduling this break after a long day allows me to work better in the mornings.

Make your timetable work for you by scheduling in some ‘me’ time to increase your productivity! Two hours of productive study is better than four that involve a dose of procrastination.

2. Work in short sharp bursts

If your train gets into the city at 8am but workshops do not start until 9am, that time can be spent wisely. Nip to a coffee shop and settle down for 30 minutes of hard work. This time adds up and you’ll find that the consolidation work you thought you didn’t have time for is completed!

3. Wake up early

My friends will laugh when I say this, as socialising in the mornings is not my strong point, especially before coffee. But this past year I’ve been waking up at 6am, walking to my desk and getting a solid two hours work in before starting my day as normal. When you’re feeling fresh in thew morning, those few hours of uninterrupted studying can be so productive. I start my part time job at nine in the morning some days, and so I often get up and work for an hour or so before getting ready for work. I promise it gets easier the more you do it!

4. It's okay to say no to plans

If your commute is relatively long, an unfortunate side effect is that you do have less time socialise. For me, this means being unable to go for drinks in the evening, as I’d have had to wait around and then get a late train home. I knew last year that I had to say no, but that I could fit in a coffee in between workshops with my friends from class. Prioritising the social events that fit around your commute is important. Don’t forget that spending time with friends is important, but often not at the expense of your whole week!

5. Enjoy it

If you’re like me, you’ll find your course interesting and exciting (as well as challenging). The content of a law degree or masters is something you can become so invested in; law impacts the whole of the world around you and you can see it playing out in scenarios every day, and there’s no other subject as enriching and exciting (in my slightly biased opinion). Whilst you’re rushing around getting trains or buses, remember that you’re doing this qualification for a reason! Enjoy it, embrace it and remember WHY you’re commuting!