Top Ten: Signs that a new academic year has begun

It’s been a few weeks since my last post, but I’m pleased to say that I finally have found some time to write a post in between student inductions, endless emails, and bureaucratic nonsense. I have some quite challenging blog posts line dup for the coming months, so I thought I would offer a more light hearted post on life as an academic. I’ve been wondering around corridors and classrooms for the last few weeks, often smiling to myself at the rituals of a new academic year. So here’s my top ten signs that the new academic year has begun:

  1. The campus is busy, like really really busy. That’s right, the students have arrived and I am now regretting taking for granted the empty seats of the campus cafe and the ability to grab a ‘quick coffee’ during the summer months. 
  2. You can’t get parked on campus. I drive around wanting to scream at students because they get discounted rail fare and bus passes. Apparently walking 10 minutes from halls of residence is too strenuous, whilst I have sat in rush hour traffic for an hour to ensure I’m not late to deliver that 9am lecture. 
  3. The lifts have broken down. Yip that’s a sure sign the semester has started. So not only am I running late after fighting for a car parking space, I now need to run up 7 flights of stairs, without a caffeine kick because there was no time to queue for that much needed coffee.

  4. I have turned into a walking sat nav. Yes, very corner I turn I have the most distressed looking students trying to figure out the maze that is our campus (I mean, really, who designs universities?). Whilst the nice half of me kindly offers them directions, the other half looks at them with envy because somehow, in their journey of campus discovery of wrong turns, they managed to get that cup of coffee.
  5. Academics look really sad. The realisation has sunk in that all those writing projects that were in the pipeline before the academic year began are merely a dream, and will now need to be postponed for the next 10 months.
  6. You get daily reminders that your email inbox is reaching maximum capacity as the drones of student emails flood in. Having been quite smug at how organised my outlook was over the summer months I am now staring at red flags and exclamation marks. The student emails are one thing but there’s also all the new policies and procedures that administrators and managers decided to introduce all at once in the first week of lecturing. And of course every one of these administrative changes is urgent and requires immediate attention.

  7. My PC has been abducted by aliens and replaced with a screensaver of Italian coastlines. So, on top of all the administrative and procedural changes that I have to master in 24 hours, I now need to figure out where the hell all my nicely organised folders have been hidden. Yeah, thanks IT for upgrading all the software, the VLE, the email system and the staff intranet all on the same day as bewildered freshers frantically email me to find out what their timetable means.

  8. 25% of the class are missing in the first 2 weeks because September seems to be the month for all possible colds, gastric bugs, operations and excruciating menstrual cycles. I suggest that health research centres examine this curious coincidence to invent a student vaccine against the plagues of September. 
  9. I am now faced with the ‘whatever is left’ sandwich choice, routinely the dried chicken or plain ham selection. I hide at my desk, sandwich in one hand and mouse in the other in an attempt to change the dates on last years lecture slides, hoping that no-one notices that I still haven’t got round to updating the content from 3 years ago.
  10. And lastly – Free Pizza!. Anyone would think that Domino’s was hiding the exam papers in the stuffed crusts the way students are queuing outside.

There you have it, these are my top 10 sure fire signs that the new academic year has begun. So all that’s left to say is, bring on the semester break when I can reclaim my lovely cafeteria sofa, my hot coffee, my gourmet lunch and hopefully my sanity.

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