Day in the Life of a Woman Historian: Today

Manon Williams
Saturday 24 July 2021

What is it like to be a woman student of History at St Andrews in the 2020s? Taking inspiration from popular modern day ‘Day in the Life’ blog posts and YouTube videos, a group of current undergraduates has been exploring the experiences of past women History undergraduates at St Andrews. Here, a current History student describes her day.  

 A Day in the Life of a female history student at the University of St Andrews in the modern day looks vastly different to what it would have for a female student during the decades that the other members of my team have researched. Thanks to great strides made for women’s equality, female students now have equal access to education, extracurriculars and other aspects of university life. The ever-expanding capabilities of technology have also contributed to make a normal day for a history student today almost unrecognisable from those in the twentieth century.  

Morning 

Most female students at the university live either in university accommodation – which is no longer segregated by gender – or private accommodation in St Andrews. The majority of history students will have their first lectures at 9 or 10 o’clock, and these will generally be held in lecture halls in the town and attended by a large number of students. The classes taken by First and Second Year history students will usually be fairly large set modules, offering a broad overview of different time periods and regional areas, such as Europe in the Late Modern period or the History of the Middle East since the Early Medieval Period. These modules will give an overview of the broad trends and key events that took place during these time periods, which prepares students for the more specific classes they will take at Honours level. These classes will be taught by a number of lecturers who will deliver lectures on their area of specialty within the class.  

Honours students take far more specific modules, generally taught by one professor, which will cover a short span of time, a specific area or a particular historical trend or event. Some examples of Honours modules that history students can take today include ‘The Medieval Castle’, ‘The Age of Charlemagne: 750-830’, ‘The Decline and Fall of the French Old Regime’ and ‘Imperial Russia: 1815-1917’. Honours history students generally do not have lectures, and spend their time undertaking independent research and attending small seminars to discuss their reading. 

 The classes that a Sub-Honours student takes will depend on their degree path; those studying for a Modern History degree will have to take classes on that period, those studying for a Medieval History degree will take classes on the Medieval period and those studying for an Ancient History degree will take classes on Ancient History. Those studying for a General History degree can take any mixture of history classes as long as they meet the required number of history credits. The same is true for those studying specific types of history, as long as they meet the credit requirements for their degree.  

A typical morning for a Sub-Honours history student will generally involve two to three lectures – the majority of modules will hold three lectures per week – and any amount of personal studying. 

Afternoon  

Many afternoons will also involve attending lectures, or students will attend tutorials and seminars. Tutorials will generally take the form of a discussion, involving around 5-15 students and led by the tutor, on the lectures and reading material assigned that week. Students may also go to one of the university’s libraries or reading rooms to study. Nowadays, most reading material or resources can be found online through the university’s internal server, MySaint. In this way, studying and preparing for classes will look very different to how it might have been in the twentieth century, when history students used set textbooks and journals. Many sports societies – which are generally mixed gender today – run training sessions on Wednesday afternoons which many students will attend.  

Evening 

Just as in previous decades, the Union is a hub of student activity, especially in the evening. Whether that’s going to Friday night Bops, meeting up at the bar or attending society events, there is always plenty to keep you occupied in the evening. There are a huge number of societies for students to join and almost anyone can find one that suits their interests.  

 This is just one of the blogs in a series of ‘days in the life’ from various decades. If you’ve enjoyed this post, please check out the other decades: 1930s, 1960s, and 1980s.  

This post was written in 2021 by Amanda Stewart, who is going into her third year studying History at the University of St Andrews.  

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