The bluffer's guide to lecture etiquette for first years

February 17, 2015
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Attending your first uni lecture is an exciting experience and often when you’ll start to really feel part of your student cohort.

While it’s easy to get carried away in the nervous anticipation of what your future learning holds, it’s important to remember a few common courtesies that’ll help you avoid pissing off other students. After all, no one wants to be remembered as the guy who ate the smelly sandwich on the first day of Introductory Chemistry.

Take the nearest available seat if arriving late

Sometimes coming late to a lecture isn’t avoidable – maybe you just finished class on the other side of campus, had an appointment with an advisor, or slept through your alarm again and spent 42 minutes looking for an available car space.

If you don’t make it in time for the beginning of the lecture, don’t disturb everyone else by thundering up the theatre stairs and insisting on squeezing through a row of people to your preferred spot in the middle-back of the room. Slip in quietly and take the first seat near the door.

Avoid loud personal conversations

No-one’s going to tell you that dissecting the latest episode of The Walking Dead isn’t important, but doing so with your buddy in the middle of STAT1070 isn’t appropriate. Even hushed conversations disturb those around you and you’d be surprised how far sound can travel in a lecture theatre. Save personal chats for after class when you can talk as loudly and freely as you’d like.

Don’t bring anything too pungent to snack on

So you decided waking up 10 minutes earlier to have breakfast at home wasn’t worth it. We’ve all been there. But if you’re going to bring food into a lecture, make sure it isn’t canned tuna, an egg sandwich or anything else that’s going to irritate the nostrils of your classmates. Also on the ‘don’t eat’ list is food that requires excessively loud crunching or anything in noisy, rustling packaging. Just no.

Lectures aren’t the time or place to share your personal anecdotes

Asking questions in a lecture is fine, but raising your hand to share your own opinion or a classic Simpsons reference you’re reminded of is not on. If you’re going to say something, make sure it’ll add value to the lesson and isn’t going to waste anyone’s time.

Similarly, don’t butt in and attempt to correct your lecturer. Academics are academics for a reason: they know their stuff. Trying to outsmart your lecturer will only bring about eye rolls from your peers.

Listen and take notes

If you’re going to invest at least three years and upwards of 20 thousand dollars in a degree, then get your time and money’s worth. Show up to class, pay attention and make legible notes. You’ll thank yourself come exam time.

Emily Burley

Emily Burley is a social change student and journalism graduate of the University of Newcastle. She tweets at @emilyburley.

Image: Amy, Flickr Creative Commons license, attribution no additional restrictions