27 Oct 2017

Up with the crammers and insomniacs

12:33 pm on 27 October 2017

At exam time, study comes before sleep


“Studying all day, studying all night. We’ll study all day ’til it’s over.”

Shelley Blaker, a 20-year-old biomedical science student, is on the top floor of Victoria University’s central library, contemplating her life during the exam period as coherently as possible at 11.30pm.

“Routine goes out the window, exercise goes out the window, healthy food goes out the window. It’s kind of crazy to expect you to remember 12 weeks worth of content,” she says.

Shelley Blaker

Shelley Blaker Photo: Tom Kitchin/The Wireless

All of Victoria University’s libraries are open to midnight all year round. The Campus Hub on the main campus is open 24/7 for students with swipe-card access.

At this time of year with final exams looming, the library and Hub is busier than ever.

It’s 11pm, and the sound of a piano fills the Hub’s entrance. Nicol Cheung, who isn’t even a student, has come into practice. It’s like entering a hotel lobby.

He’s not playing any particular piece, he says.

“I’m just playing by feeling. I want to be playing piano here and I need to reach a grand piano like this.”

The tune might be unrecognisable and ambient, but no one’s complaining. It’s the kind of music people could study to. There’s no drum kit or guitar amps turned up to the extreme.

Students are spread out around the library and hub. There’s the occasional natter or laugh, but most are stuck to their textbook or laptop.

Ben Langheim, a 19-year-old psychology student sits with his friends Quinh To, who is studying marketing, and Belle Wang, a friend who's still at high school.

The trio will move downstairs to the Campus Hub when the library closes and will probably stay there until 3am.

On top of their desks and beyond their notepads and laptops lie bottles of V and an assortment of biscuits. This is how they stay awake.

“We just eat shitty food, basically,” Ben explains.

“And cigarettes,” says Belle.

“Last night we had tonnes of real food - like takeaway food - and that was great, that kept us awake,” she adds.

Belle Wang, Ben Langheim and Quinh To.

Belle Wang, Ben Langheim and Quinh To. Photo: Tom Kitchin/The Wireless

Quinh says her sleeping patterns become a bit out of order during exam time.

“Last night I got about three hours,” she says. “But I had a nap today, I should be fine ’til 3[am].”

But although exam study is pretty intense, Ben’s done some more manic last-minute work before assignments.

“It’s like starting at 10 o’clock at night and finishing at 12 in the afternoon the next day.”

That’s 14 hours straight work.

“I’m pretty much just smashing the whole thing out. I’ve guiltily had to do that quite a few times this year.”

At 12.15am, Jordan Cochrane, a 26-year-old maths student and Ronnie Morgan, a 23-year-old Massey nursing student, are on the first floor of the Hub with a guitar.

Close to them, someone has written the words to the Nicki Minaj song “Super Bass” on the wall. They swear they didn’t do it.

Jordan says he’s brought the guitar because he wants to change the strings, to give him a bit of a study break sometime during the night.

Why are they here at this time?

“Poor sleeping patterns,” Jordan says. “I normally work 12[pm] to 2am roughly, those are my daytime hours.”

They have a large range of snacks on the go but most have gone.

“We’re out of them all, licorice and chips and everything,” Jordan says.

But mandarins are still on the menu. “They’re an easy snack,” Ronnie says.

Even Ibuprofen’s on the cards. “That’s for my dodgy wrist, too much writing,” Jordan says.

“I think using my phone irritates [my wrist], you use your phone lots when you’re procrastinating!”

Jordan says late nights inevitably become normal for him during the exam period.

“It fuels the next day’s late night because you sleep in. That’s definitely a thing with the student life I find, it just gets worse and worse, your sleeping pattern. I stayed ’til 4[am] last Saturday.”  

Like Ben, Jordan admits that sometimes, staying on top of internal assignments are more challenging than the exams.

“I did a couple of lab reports. I stayed up like 16 hours straight on that. It wasn’t even that good.”

At 1am, Georgia Leddy, a 21-year-old law and management student sits alone in the Hub, diligently swapping glances between her laptop screen and the notes below.

She’s terrified of failing her law exam on Monday. She says it has a high fail rate.

“I haven’t studied today during normal hours is because I work part-time. I can’t put in all the hours I would want to because I have to earn money to live.”

She’s been here pretty much every night this week. “I’ve got into a bit of a bad cycle where I’ve slept in to compensate for working late. I’m usually here around 10 in the morning.”

She’s a part-time nanny, and returns to the library after the children’s parents arrive home.

“I’m quite switched on at night sometimes. I just keep going until I run out of steam and go home. I was here ’til three the other night.”

Georgia Leddy

Georgia Leddy Photo: Tom Kitchin/The Wireless

Then, she says it’s “rinse, repeat.” This lifestyle will continue until her law exam is out of the way.

Her diet is a little bit haphazard during exam time.

“I do like to eat healthy so I try to maintain that … because once you start letting that slip and you’re letting your sleeping slip as well you’re heading into a shitstorm spiral. It’s ok but it’s definitely more grab and go. [I have] up to like quad shots in my coffee.”

Sixteen-hour study stints, extra coffee shots, tonnes of V, it’s a normality for students when it comes to exam time.

They just keep on trucking until exams end.

Then, welcome the holidays.

But if you’re at uni for another year, well as they say, rinse, repeat.