The Student
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Features
Study Spaces and How to Find Them: A Fresher Perspective
by Hannah Wenzel, 13/10/21

Freshers’ Week is often chaotic from the onset. From activity fairs to introductory talks and meeting new people to figuring out food costs. Even conquering the initial awkwardness of using the gym or finding someone (anyone) who has the same classes to ask “Is this really our timetable?”

All these questions are part and parcel of the emotions that come with being a ‘fresher’. However, something else that’s new is finding spaces you feel comfortable in. Spaces that help you take a breath when you’re stressed and you have no idea which staircase to take or which door to walk through without risking embarrassment. 

That’s why finding the right study space matters so much. It’s a place to come back to, time and again, and feel comfortable when tackling the work that we’ll be doing for the next four or more years. 

So, as someone who struggled initially finding such a space, when I couldn’t just sit in my accommodation to do my intro lectures or sit outside (since we all know that the Edinburgh weather loves to give us four seasons in a day), it was difficult to find places to sit no matter how hard I looked on the Uni website for information. 

Yes, the initial list of places and times was helpful, but deciding which one was confusing and usually ended up with another trip to the Main Library at the most inappropriate time of the day when there were no ‘noisy’ area spaces available and the idea of sitting in the quiet areas (with a cold) sounded all the more torturous. 

Instead, I decided to ask others, take the leap and initiate conversation (I know…it was terrifying) with the idea that second or third year students would know more. 

I was surprised to find that they too had trouble this year finding places to study that weren’t their own bedrooms because there was no set guide on how to find a study space that fit their particular task. This left them to mainly trial and error tactics when finding a space to do a lecture, sit and focus doing reading tasks or chat when undertaking a group project. It was hard. Too hard. 

Second-year Literature student Lizzie Wood confided to me that she “tends to stick with Teviot or the Library, but they tend to get full pretty quickly so it’s awful trying to find a seat. If you’re planning to get a day’s work done it’s best to set out early so you get a good spot.”

Despite this past year and a half being influenced so heavily by the pandemic, this year, now with freshers behind us, is instilling hope again that by next year things will resemble some form of ‘normality.’ However, for the time being, with many lectures, tutorials and practicals remaining online, study spaces are more important than ever when providing students with an excuse to leave their rooms.

I found that my own experience as a fresher this year has taught me not to be afraid to go and ask for more information when needing a space to retreat to when the whole process gets too overwhelming. It’s about finding confidence, even when you think you might spontaneously combust at the thought of asking a stranger where to find Moray House or the Law Library. 

Through this communication, I found how much I like studying in Teviot and it’s calming café-like atmosphere or the small, quiet cubicle spaces I discovered in the Lister Learning and Teaching Centre that are perfect if you want a space away from the masses of Bristo Square. Maybe it’s even the study spaces in your own accommodation (if you’re in halls) that allow you that five-minute walk away from your desk to focus on that reading you’ve been putting off. It may even be a small café off the Quarter mile, with cheap coffee, that gives you that space you need to unwind.

That’s what being a fresher at Edinburgh University has taught me. In our current climate, asking questions and interacting with others is the best method of finding a study space that suits you. Know that you’re not the only one who feels like they’re crawling around in the dark looking for a torch. It’s okay not to know what you’re doing because we all figure it out as we go along.

Image via Geograph