Breaks literally “break” up the natural week-to-week rhythm of the semester. In many ways that’s great, but when it comes to juggling workloads, it creates its own unique challenges that many of us don’t like to acknowledge. As someone that thrives on organization, it’s easy to capitalize on the momentum of a structured schedule week after week. Many of us develop innate rhythms; going to the library every Sunday for example. These rhythms take time and tweaking to develop and are thrown off by the sudden absence of a workload, even if only for a brief time. It takes a much greater inertial force to get started again after time off.
Having constant structure forces productivity in a way that seemingly endless amounts of time do not. Every time we have a break approaching, for example, I always manage to convince myself that I will, in fact, get work done during the time off. Perhaps, like me, you find yourself saying, “Oh I’ll work on it during break.” However, throughout my four years here, I’ve never actually managed to accomplish this feat. It’s easy to view breaks as an unending amount of time, during which it’s possible to move mountains and catch up on two months worth of lectures. It’s just as easy to dismiss just how exhausting the in-semester workload can be until you find yourself sleeping for an entire day as soon as your brain is allowed to switch “off.”
Also, somehow I always seem to think that breaks will last longer than they actually do, yet time always flies by before I can give it a second thought. All of a sudden, it’s the Sunday before back-to-school, and I find myself once again feeling overwhelmed.
There’s absolutely something to be said for using breaks as a restful period. This is what most students seem to do, regardless if that was their initial intention. However, when assignments and exams continue immediately upon the return to campus, I find myself more stressed now than before. Sure, due diligence and sheer determination would mitigate the issue. Yet again, it’s hard in the endless hours of break to force oneself to think of anything academic — the procrastinator’s downfall to which I am particularly susceptible.
Luckily, many professors are understanding of this, and either push back assignments to allow for more time to acclimate, or at least provide the option of accommodations should they be necessary. I, alongside all other current students, am trying to jumpstart our brains back into academic mode amidst a semester already in full-throttle. Yet there are still assignments looming, projects to be completed, exams to be taken. For me, the break doesn’t feel like a break at all, but rather a delay of impending doom. To all of the professors that recognize that this semester still is not entirely “normal” and that there are a great number of things still impacting students, thank you. You are the people that make each semester better.
In general though, perhaps many students, including myself, would benefit from a restructuring of the academic calendar to include shorter breaks more frequently throughout the semester, rather than an entire week off all at once. This is an idea I’m sure my freshman year self, as a huge proponent of spending as much time away from my studies as possible,would’ve found repulsive. As I’ve learned better time management, however, I’ve come to appreciate the increased efficiency of doing a little work everyday, rather than cramming everything at the last minute. I think this approach to the academic calendar in general would actually be great for students, particularly those that struggle with time management to begin with, as a way of building in that habit.
In the meantime though, just know that we are only five weeks from the end of classes, and six from the end of the semester. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and that light is the summer.
Lorelei Meidenbauer (she/her) is a senior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]. Hot-takes and Handshakes runs every other Tuesday this semester.