UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES)


A Week in the Life of Sam Johnson, History, Politics and Economics Student

31 January 2024

Sam Johnson, History, Politics and Economics Student shares a typical week with us as a SSEES student living at home.

Sam Johnson, SSEES student

Before coming to university, I was in the fortunate position of knowing that I wanted to continue living at home with my parents on the outskirts of a town called Hitchin. For context, Hitchin is about 30 miles north of London and has a train to St Pancras station that takes around 35 minutes. My reasons for staying at home included: my volunteering commitments making me feel integrated into the community, the lower cost of commuting compared to living in London, and my home comforts. I can confidently say I made the right choice for myself since I am benefiting from being a part of both my local community and the community of SSEES and UCL. I wrote this 'Week in the life' blog to provide an overview of what living at home while studying means to me.


Monday is one of my busiest days for studying at university because I have 3 timetabled teaching hours between 10.00 am and 4.00 pm. My classes on Monday are a Russian culture class (an optional module I took for 1st year) starting at 10 am and a two hour economics lecture starting at 2 pm. To get to London on time, I wake up at 6 am and have breakfast around 7 am, leaving the house at 8 am to catch my 8:30 am train. The Russian culture class is one of my favourite classes I have this year which motivates me to get to university on time. During the class, we analyse literature, films, and other works of art produced in Russia during the 20th century, while also learning about some of the historical context surrounding each work of art. After class, I spend two hours studying in one of UCL’s libraries, then I get lunch from one of the eateries on campus. Afterwards, I make a short walk to Birbeck University as UCL uses one of its lecture theatres for my economics lecture. Economics lectures are rather intense, covering a lot of content in a short timeframe with a lot of mathematical and graphical work. I usually manage to get home by 5:30 pm although it is very busy on the train since I am travelling during rush hour.

Train platform


Tuesday also has 3 scheduled teaching hours: a 10 am history lecture, an 11 am politics lecture, and a 12 pm history tutorial (a discussion-based class reflecting on lecture content). History is my favourite part of the degree I’m on so yet again, I am motivated to arrive on campus early. The compulsory Frontiers of History module is also extremely varied in the historical content it covers which has allowed me to gain a lot of historical knowledge. Currently, the focus is on Joseph II and the Habsburg Monarchy. I have back-to-back lectures on Tuesdays so once the history one is finished, I rush to politics. Politics lectures focus on theories and debates surrounding the mechanisms operating in national politics. Afterwards, it is another rush to my History tutorial which is hosted off-campus in a very fancy building owned by the Royal Asiatic Society. Of all my tutorial groups, history has the best atmosphere in my opinion which leads to a very productive reflection on the lecture and reading. Because my timetable on Tuesdays is identical to a friend’s timetable, we get lunch somewhere on Tottenham Court Road after teaching finishes. Afterwards, I return home at a leisurely pace and do independent studying when I get back.


Wednesday is a tiring day despite only having one hour of teaching because my teaching hour is in the dreaded 9 am slot. This means that I have to wake up at 5:30 am and need to be at the train station by 7:30 am. I have a fast food breakfast on this day so that I don’t have to cook too early in the morning which gives me more time to ease myself into the day. However, International Relations tutorials are very enjoyable with lots of interesting discussions generated despite the collective tiredness. Afterwards, I tend to study in the SSEES library for a couple of hours before getting a train back to my hometown at about 12:30 pm. Upon returning to Hitchin, I meet my mum at a local cafe for lunch and then we go shopping together for the week. Afterwards, I get a few hours more to study and eat an evening meal. I then have to get ready to head to one of my two volunteering commitments, Scouts Leadership, which lasts from 7 pm to 9 pm. Due to the high energy of the children I’m working with there, I’m lucky if I manage to get to sleep before 11 pm since it takes a while to relax. However, if we end up having a (slightly boring) leaders meeting afterwards, this process of getting to sleep is catalysed, even though I get home past 10 pm these nights.

Hitchin station


Fortunately for me, Thursday has a far nicer timetable which doesn’t require me to get to UCL until 1 pm, so I can have a long sleep after a very busy and tiring Wednesday. However, I still aim to get to campus for midday because of the Bloomsbury Farmers Market that takes place nearby where I like to get my lunch from. Afterwards, I go to my tutorial for politics which generates some interesting debates over definitions of certain political concepts and is far more energetic than international relations since we are blessed with an afternoon slot. After politics, I work in the SSEES library for 45 minutes, then go to my international relations lecture which is hosted at the edge of campus in the Institute of Education. My day ends at 4 pm so I might get food with a friend after my lecture, or head straight home to continue working.

Bloomsbury Farmers Market


I only have my economics tutorial on Friday at 10 am, so my procedures for waking up, eating breakfast and getting into London are more-or-less identical to that of Monday and Tuesday. After my economics tutorial, I tend to make my way home slowly to be able to head to my favourite Thai restaurant in my local area. After eating, I get back to work or if I am not too busy then I take this afternoon off. Regardless, I take a few hours off studying to cook an evening meal for my family.


My role as a matchday volunteer at my local football club was one of my biggest motivators for remaining at home while studying, and Saturday is the day I normally perform this duty. Typically, I get to the ground by 1 pm to prepare for turnstiles (the entryway into the ground) opening at 2 pm since my main responsibility is helping people with their tickets. I normally get home at 5 pm after the game assuming nothing goes wrong during it. The time that I am free on Saturdays before and after this commitment is usually split evenly between relaxing and studying. Studying at the weekend is focused on the bigger tasks that I would not have had the time, or energy to do during the week. If I do not have this commitment, then I use the time to study and take the opportunity to cook my family an evening meal.


This is probably my least interesting day. I normally go out to one of Hitchin’s neighbouring towns in the morning before continuing with studying in the afternoon, again focusing on bigger tasks. I try to stop working by 9 pm so that I can be well rested for the week ahead.

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