University in the Dark Ages (2008)

Even though what I am about to say probably applies to people only 7-8 years older than me, I find it mind-blowing that friends, siblings and parents completed university without all the tools that we have today.

Only recently am I discovering that my peers in Rome don’t have a library catalogue to help them track down sources for their thesis. But inconveniences start long before that.

The year is 2008. 11 years ago, not 50. The year my sister started university.

First thing, you wake up in a hurry, get yourself ready, run to uni and get to class only to realise that your teacher is absent. Of course, before we could all easily open uMail on our phones, there wasn’t really an instant way for teachers to warn students that they were calling in sick.

So you try and find yourself a place to sit quietly. KOG now has a system whereby you can easily view how many seats are empty in the library by seeing which computers are on. I don’t imagine Cambridge university had this system in 2008, nor was there a way to check opening and closing times of faculties from your phone, so you would probably just stick to he study spots you knew and hope for the best. Obviously, during exam time we all know how sparse study spots can get, but legging it all the way to the library just to find out it closes in a few hours? No thanks.

You sit down at your desk and get out your laptops, which is where you have (some of) your readings in PDF. The PDFs were secretively scanned from an old book by the most friendly of professors, only to be emailed around among students, who would otherwise ALL have to take it out of the library at the same time.

In most cases, of course, you were better off just buying the book yourself.

Maybe one of the only things that I still do like my sister did, is take notes by hand. I don’t really know why this is, but it’s downright vintage eh.

Class timetables for the rest of the week are printed at the beginning of the semester and hung up at the entrance of the faculty. Of course, there is no way of communicating room change in advance unless there is prior organisation by the professor. This also means that you must have a post-it with the room of each class, to carry around with you for at least a month before you remember where everything is.

A quick coffee break at the cafeteria might mean you have to go and get cash out, as paying with card wasn’t as popular as it is now. And forget about texting your friend to check if they’re in uni for a quick study break: the reception is terrible in the library, and without free Wi-Fi everywhere like we have now, university students actually had to focus.

And that essay you have to finish writing? Yes, well chip chip. You’re going to have to finish it, print it, and go to the building down the road to hand it in.

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1 Comment

  • Connor
    Posted December 10, 2019 at 8:38 pm 0Likes

    It’s kind of crazy how much more easily accessible so many parts of (academic) life have gotten in the last decade, and I don’t know if I could manage without it anymore to be honest. I used to be able to of course, but I wasn’t studying at a university back then 😛

    I also still take handwritten notes, just like you! I find that it allows me to process and remember information far better than just by typing out notes on my laptop, and I think having some form of balance between analogue and digital methods will probably be the best way of going forward for everyone, it’s just a question of finding out where that balance is!

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