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.

News
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
News
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
News
people
Voices
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Guru Careers: Graduate Media Assistant

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: We are looking for an ambitious and adaptable...

Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'