A Day in the Life of a Classical Studies Student

Coming to the end of my first year at King’s, I’m happy to report that I have so far really enjoyed my degree in Classical Studies, which essentially focuses on ancient history and classical civilisation; I feel very lucky to belong to one of the biggest Classics departments in the country, and still feel the same interest in my course that I possessed in the earliest weeks. The Classical Studies degree is the most flexible in the department in terms of module choices, so I’ll been able to experience a variety of different kinds of classes throughout my degree. This year, my studies mainly focused on ancient Greek and Roman art and archaeology, philosophy and history; it’s been challenging but ultimately a real pleasure to get to know these topics with no prior experience.

One of my favourite parts about university life in general is the fact that no two days are ever really the same, but here’s how my days generally unfold:

Wake up — getting up has never really been a problem for me, I’m naturally an early bird and get my best work done during the daytime so I usually begin with an early start.

Run — one of the first things I like to do in the morning is get in a little bit of exercise; I find a morning run really improves my energy levels and keeps me feeling alert throughout the rest of the day. Also, uni can be a lot of mental work, so it’s nice to take the time each morning to do something physical and give my brain a little extra time to turn on.

Commute — like most students I don’t live in central London so the next part of my day is usually a train or tube ride to Holborn. Although commuting can be a more mundane part of the day, people watching, reading and a good playlist help make the minutes fly by. One of the reasons I don’t mind this half hour too much is because it’s the time of day that makes me feel like a true Londoner…

Lectures or seminars — I’ll have between one and three sessions to attend in a typical day at uni, either in the form of a seminar or a lecture. Maintaining good attendance has not been challenging for me this year whatsoever, as my course covers such a wide range of topics that the material I am taught each week is so different than the last. This is definitely one of the most engaging aspects of my degree, and of course it helps to be lead by academics at the top of the field; it really is infectious to be taught by lecturers and teaching assistants who are genuinely interested in and experts on the material.

Readings — because the topic of study varies from week to week, my modules require a bit of reading to prepare for the lectures and seminars. I try to dedicate some time before, after or between teaching hours to get my work done for the week. I can never express enough how important it is to study something you really love and find engaging in order to stay motivated and actually do the work. Classical Studies is definitely a reading-based degree, but more often than not, the reading material is captivating enough to forget it’s actually ‘homework’; I think the trick that really worked for me upon settling into uni was learning to approach the weekly readings with genuine interest instead of just trying to ‘get through’ them. If there’s anything else I’ve learnt about readings and preparation for classes, it’s that you absolutely cannot do everything; I find it more beneficial to focus on a few core readings than try to tackle all of them with only partial understanding. Finding a nice environment to study in is also helpful — you can find my favourite places to study around Strand Campus using my previous article as a guide.

Coffee breaks — none of this would be possible without coffee! Look out for my favourite spots in Holborn, which I’ve outlined in my last post…

A few words on Classical Studies in general… I’d be kidding myself, and deceiving any reader, if I claimed that I wake up every morning bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to plunge into my studies. Like any other degree, studying classics can feel stressful, tedious, and confusing at times. But demotivating is one word I will never use to describe it, one thing it chiefly is not, because the moments during which my studies can throw me off my course are almost always stratified with moments of realisation and appreciation. Something specific — a line in an epic poem, a scene painted on a pot, a new fact about ordinary life in the ancient world — will strike a chord with me, resembling something in the world around me so closely that suddenly I am reminded of the humanity behind the history. I often forget the fact that behind the armies and frontiers, art and architecture, literature and philosophy we study lay a whole society of individuals just like us, less foreign and obscure than we may have conceived; when I recall this simple fact, I am overwhelmed and inspired by the ancients’ complexity and genius, as it exemplifies the potential we are all capable of.

As I have said, I cannot profess a love for my studies unaccompanied by the inevitable frustrations of any university student; but I will wholeheartedly admit that at the end of most days, I am thoroughly happy studying the ancient world and its many mysteries, no matter how paradoxical and deeply buried they may seem. It certainly would not be too ambitious to suggest that I share this love for classics with the majority of my peers. Speaking to my course mates about our studies, I have never once felt isolated in my passion for and interest in the field; almost everyone I have gotten to know has shared in, and contributed to, my own inspiration, and so continues the cycle of learning, understanding and sharing what our course has allowed us to get to know and grow to love. This is critical, I think, to the future of our field; surely someone must be up to the task of unearthing all that can be learnt from those before us, and our participation in this endeavour, one from which I hope the whole world can learn and benefit from, is a privilege we are granted every single day.


Issabella Orlando