Surviving dissertation season: The dreaded essay cave

Dissertations are designed to make you hurt. There's only one thing for it - hunker down, prepare your essay cave and see out the storm...

I've been wearing an old t-shirt; white with a picture of Madonna aged 18, sucking a lollipop in a semi-seductive way, for the past three weeks.

Not constantly, mind. Primarily because that would be gross, and also because I have occasionally left the flat. You see, it’s the uniform of the essay cave. My flat mate and I have been burrowing away in the nine square metres of our abode day and night, kitted out in attire that should never see the light of day. I feel like a tunneling puppy or a bunny escaping the farmer’s treachery. And I don’t even like Madonna.

There are different types of essay cave, with varying degrees of productivity attached like hit points on Pokémon cards. The library cabins: brightly light, drafty squares with enough room for books, a three course meal – frowned upon – and your sleeping self. I give it a low rating, especially if it comes with sleeping bag in tow. The bed cave is next, the comfiest, but most dangerous of all. I possess a unique ability to work in bed, in my pajamas at any time of day. It makes me feel very romantic, very Carrie Bradshaw. It’s definitely something I’d consider a transferable skill, something I’ve finely tuned in my time at university.

Then there’s the kitchen table, my in-house companion’s location of choice. Ours is piled – no exaggeration needed – high with jurisprudence textbooks, notes on Holocaustic law – she’s doing a wild degree – and about a thousand coloured revision cards. She prefers them in yellow, and they’re everywhere. This is most preferable, if possible to negotiate – luckily my duvet and I get along well – as ‘free’ food and most pertinently tea is on tap, and there’s no leaving-of-electronics fear on a mad dash to the loo.

A few days ago I lost my voice, which I croakily declared a pathetic fallacy. It has resolutely defined the meaning of my life for the past fortnight. And I'm organised, doing this work six weeks prior to its deadline, like a proper nerd. The essay caves have barely begun for those on a normal student schedule.

You could make a cracking documentary about student revision, and the onset of the essay cave. It has begun to feel like a colossally expensive – and potentially useless – Big Brother house. With the twenty-four hour library in full swing, I fear for those with kettles and boxes of PG Tips chugging on through the night shift. Although this year I am not a participant of the pillow parade, and not willing to stay up all night doing work, it is busier than ever. But that’s the reality of university, isn’t it? For all the red beer and six-month holidays, at some point there are deadlines.

As I sat down to write my twelve-thousandth word in a trio of days, our compact cavern descended into delirium. We had to leave the house, for more than two hours. I am intellectually, physically and emotionally exhausted, and I don’t even have any exams to cram for. I’d feel smug if I had the energy.

Eleanor Doughty is a second-year student at Queen Mary, University of London. Follow her on Twitter here. She won't follow you back.

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