Columns, Opinions

Steinman ’19: Here comes the sun

By
Opinions Editor
Monday, April 23, 2018

It once seemed an impossible dream, but spring has finally come to Providence. As predictable as daffodils, students all over campus are populating every green space available to soak up the long-overdue rays of sunshine, ensuring that this week’s prospective student visitors for A Day on College Hill, unlike last week’s, are given the full picture of the ideal college experience — music playing, frisbees flying, hammocks hanging from trees. And while everyone may have different preferences when it comes to the weather, it really does seem that days like these — days of rebirth and reawakening — make us better people. We are friendlier and happier. Our interactions are better: What might have been a rushed smile at a friend as you both hurry to the nearest indoor library or dining hall becomes a real conversation. We gather together for more events, stop at things that look interesting, become more spontaneous. As the days get longer, they get more complete, as the beckoning spring sun imbues us with the energy and desire to make the most of each.

It is, therefore, an unfortunate feature of the academic calendar that too many of these magical spring days are only observed, longingly, through a library window. The looming threats of exams and final papers are compounded by the almost physical difficulty of sitting inside on a beautiful day long enough to prepare for them. And unless you’re staying for Senior Week, your last days of the semester are likely to be a harried balancing act between the desire to sit surrounded by friends on the Main Green and nagging anxiety over that half-written paper.

Yes, we are in college to learn, not to frolic in the sunshine. And it would take a radical reshaping of either the learning process or meteorology to hold our cumulative spring exams in less alluring weather. But short of transferring to schools in magical climates with more than 10 nice days in a semester, we should have options that allow us to cherish these days without feeling constantly bogged down by our workloads. Some professors, aware of the fact that time seems to race by after spring break, give students the option to turn in major assignments at any point during the semester. While this is logistically not feasible for the curricula in many classes, offering multiple major assignments to take the weight off of the final exam can also make the end-of-year crunch more manageable. However, while academic changes may be hard to come by, changes in our mindsets and behaviors can also have a powerful effect when it comes to living the last month of the semester to the fullest.

Reading period and finals and the weeks leading up to them can be the most stressful times of the year, particularly when concerns about internships, jobs or moving to another city are thrown into the mix. It’s easy to let that stress consume us and feel like we’re missing out on important chances to deepen friendships and explore Providence at its best, or simply to relax and take a break. When that happens, taking the time to get fresh air — if only to take a quick walk or eat a meal outdoors — can boost motivation and energy to the point that you don’t have to feel guilty about the time spent relaxing. But over the next few weeks, the most valuable approach that I’ve identified for maximizing the good moments while getting everything done is to live each moment with intention. Ensure that you’re dedicated to working when you’ve set aside other things to get work done, and commit to fully enjoying the rest of your time. This is bigger than “productive procrastination” or self-care. It is a reminder that these days, the days that stir us to enjoy our friendships and our beautiful campus and forget about everything else, can break us out of our normal, work-driven routines, and that is a good thing.

And if all else fails, as my roommate helpfully contributed, just do all your work at night. I take no responsibility for how that works out for you.

 

Clare Steinman ’19 can be reached at clare_steinman@brown.edu. Please send responses to this opinion to letters@browndailyherald.com and other op-eds to opinions@browndailyherald.com.