Freaky Friday – university edition. Could you handle another subject’s lectures for the day? Two of our Editors at Forge decided to swap lives for a day and see what it was like. See how they got on below:

Connie, law student, takes on Neurobiology:

The last time I was interested in science was when, age four, I decided I wanted to be an astronaut. This dream was pretty quickly scuppered when I realised the amount of maths you have to do, and I settled for a life in the humanities. I’m in my fifth year at Sheffield, three years of a philosophy degree, followed by two years slaving away over an MA in Law, and I’ve not once experienced the desire to see how the other half live. Nevertheless, when Jade (fellow Forge editor, of Science and Tech) offered me the chance to go to one of her lectures in exchange for coming to one of mine, I agreed, because I’m a yes-man at heart.

I chose to go to a developmental neurobiology lecture as it was that or membranes, that Jade cheerfully offered me. I’ve not had a 9am in years, and I’m reminded of just how hideous they are when I stumble into the Diamond at 8:50 on a miserable Monday morning. The Diamond, I discover, offer a cooked breakfast for just over £3. I am furious that I didn’t know this before, even though nothing could have motivated me to get there any earlier. I head to the lecture theatre and meet Jade, who (somewhat reassuringly) looks as tired as I am. One of the first slides contains the sentence ‘neurite selection involves choosing among nascent neurites’, and this sounds something of a tautology to me. It’s more than likely that I’m just stupid. The lecturer states that there is a poster that explains an experiment, and I’m taken aback, shocked that posters are still in use and actually offered as a way of learning at university. As Jade tells me later, this is not the case.

The main thing I have taken away from neurobiology lectures is that there’s pictures, and lots of them. Neurons look like deep sea starfish. One of the most beautiful kinds of neurons are purkinje, the lecturer says. It looks like a deathcore band logo. I quickly realise that knowing lots of big words doesn’t mean you can understand what’s going on, and my notes reflect this. The lecturer continues to describe neurons as beautiful; I feel we are very different people. I get distracted by the word somatodendritic, because there’s nothing like that in the law, and in doing so miss what it actually means. He shows us a video of his daughter using optical tweezers in his kitchen sink, except the video doesn’t work initially. When the video loads, she looks far too young to be using something that sounds so fancy. The experiment, as it turns out, involves a ping pong ball in a plastic container full of water with the kitchen tap running. There are no tweezers in sight and I realise I need to better manage my expectations.

It is 9:30, and all I can think about is how much I want a cooked breakfast. Jade appears to read my mind, and leans over to ask, “Do you want to get food after this?” Yes, you beautiful soul, I do.

We head to Spoons after the lecture finishes. I have a begrudging respect for science students. Nothing on this earth could persuade me to go to 9ams on a drizzly Monday morning to listen to a man gush about the beauty of cells, but the room was two-thirds full, and people were participating. I’m thrilled to know I was right to avoid science in general, but it was worth the breakfast after.


Neurobiologist Jade takes on Law:

Legally Blonde is one of my favourite films of all time, and every time I watch it I become defiantly sure that I would ace studying law. So when Connie suggested that I come to one of her lectures in exchange for her coming to one of mine, I was thrilled at the prospect of living my dream of becoming a real-life Elle Woods. In hindsight I guess bringing a chihuahua with me to the lecture was a mistake…

After getting lost in the maze that is the Hicks building (I wander around aimlessly for a few minutes until I realise that the entrance is down the road because that makes sense),

I find Connie sat on the floor eagerly awaiting my arrival; we both know that we are going to get breakfast after this, so we are a lot more keen than that 9am we shared on Monday.

The lecture starts and I’m glad that I at least understand the words the lecturer is saying, a privilege that Connie was denied last time. Most of the slides seem to be just references to publications and books, and  I can’t help but feel sorry for these people. I snigger at the idea that an 8-year-old publication is apparently recent; I could read a paper from this year and it would still be relatively old.

As the lecture progresses I become more and more aware that there has yet to be a lively discussion about sperm. I still hold out hope, although, since the topic is rehabilitation of offenders, I accept that it may be fruitless.

There seem to be fewer images in law lectures than in my science lectures, and by fewer I mean none. I feel this is odd, but not nearly as odd as the seemingly sporadic use of capital letters and quotation marks – I genuinely couldn’t tell if it was sarcasm or not. When we finally reach our first image it is a photo of a typical rehabilitation program which apparently consists of flip charts and people wearing lanyards. It looks a lot like one of those PSHE days at school if I’m honest.

We move on to a table of results from some sort of study. My scientist brain immediately kicks in as I notice the small sample size and the lack of replication of said study. Two minutes later I am proven right, thus making me feel very smug.

I kinda blank for the next five or so minutes, but I return to the lecture at just the right point to hear the phrase ‘A Welsh context’. Although I don’t understand why or even how these words were uttered, it is now my sole aim to squeeze this into every conversation I have from now until the day I die.

Despite the fact I didn’t get kicked out for not knowing what was going on or solving a murder, I enjoyed pretending to be a law student. It definitely wasn’t because I didn’t actually have to remember anything and I got to have a great breakfast afterwards.

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