Lizzy Dening | Contributor | Friday, 13 February 2015

How To Survive Reading Week When All Your Friends Have Gone Home

The Debrief: Yay it’s reading week! A whole week without lectures, when you and your friends can… wait - what? You're all going where?

If the unthinkable has happened to you, and you find yourself far from home with no friends for an entire week (plus two valuable weekends) then I feel your pain. I went from Cambridge to study in Liverpool, little realising that pretty much everyone I would meet was from up the road, and would disappear at the slightest suggestion of home cooking. Some of them went back every single weekend – surely it defeats the point of trying to become an independent adult if you don’t miss one Sunday roast over a three year course?

But anyway, it happens. If you’re too broke (or stubborn) to head back to the nest this reading week, here are my tips for getting through it.

1.Buy a hamster. Seriously.

I did this in my second year, when I found myself living alone for 10 days in one of the scariest boroughs of the city (I once woke up to find myself in a murder scene. Really. I had to duck under yellow tape to get to my lectures). I decided I needed someone to talk to, and after my housemates turned out to be a lot less fun than I’d thought when we signed the contract (read: stayed in their rooms the whole time binge eating, occasionally stomping red-eyed across the hallway to tell me to turn my music down) I felt that a non-judgemental furry friend might be a good option. The nearest pet shop was way out of town, but I decided to treat myself (I was having a shit time, after all) to a cab. The cab driver was really nice. (A little too nice, actually.) He even turned the metre off while I went to choose a rodent companion, before suggesting I named it Gary, after him (nope) and saying cheerily as he dropped me off: 'Hey, I know where you live now!'

2.Be a little bit wiser (baby)

If you’re planning to meet up for a night out with people from your course you wouldn’t normally bother saying hi to, then take it a little more easy than usual. I’m not saying forgo drinking, but maybe don’t do a shot vodka into your eyeballs from 4pm onwards. Remember there is no one waiting at home for you, and few that you can text if something goes wrong. Go out, have a good time, but treat yourself to a cab home, and always put the latch on – especially if your cab driver ‘knows where you live’. 

3.Go on a guilt trip

Linger in the doorway as your housemate packs to leave, and you might wangle an invitation to her family home. Play up how far away from home you are at the dinner table = extra roast potatoes and sympathetic hand squeezes from her mum. Bliss. Send a ‘thank you’ card and you’re set for visits, for life. They might even adopt you.

4.Get Netflix

Yes it’s an extra expense, but if you make your parents feel bad enough ('everyone else is being looked after except for me…sniff') they might offer to pay. Even if they don’t, you’re presumably spending less money on nights out this week, so you deserve a few nights of Orange is the New Black at the very least. Plus you can get a free month’s trial, if you haven’t already. Alternatively, use their absence as an excuse to raid your housemates’ DVD collections (just steer clear of any ‘home movies’ – you want to be able to look them in the eye on their return.)

5.Join something

Remember when you were a wet-behind-the-ears fresher and people spent a week waving leaflets at you? At the time, you were all about the free merch ('Ball-point pen? Always. Spatula with the Samaritans phone number on it? Sure.') but now might be a good time to consider signing up for something. It doesn’t need to be scary (ropeless abseiling society) or expensive (weekend castle rental club) just see if there’s a student paper, film society or whatever else floats your boat. Alternatively join the uni gym – it’ll be cheaper than a normal gym, plus you should get first dibs on the equipment during reading week, not to mention valuable TV remote privileges. 

6.Urm, read something?

Yes, yes, it’s not the most fashionable option (hence putting it in at lowly number 6) but the week is designed to help you get ahead with your course – and just think how grateful your future self will be when you can accept nights out with a free conscience, knowing your essays are ticked off. If the thought of being home alone reading for a week makes you want to weep, get out of there and find a cosy café or bookshop to hole up in. Reading is always, always improved by a hot chocolate with whipped cream – especially when served with a side order of smugness.

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Picture: Matilda Hill Jenkins 

Tags: Friend Ranting And Raving