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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Breaking away: off-campus spots offer peace

Published: November 15, 2013
Section: Opinions

It’s almost finals time. Yep, less than two weeks from today is Thanksgiving, and unfortunately soon after that comes what many deem “hell week” (where did the time go?). When December rolls around after a food-baby-inducing Thanksgiving feast, studying comes into full fruition. Whether you are a seasoned library goer or have spent the majority of time split between studying and reading Buzzfeed articles in bed, you will feel a sense of urgency. Venturing off campus could provide the best option for getting work done.

Regardless of where you have chosen to study over the course of the semester, it is time to evaluate if studying in a different type of environment, one away from campus, may provide more comfort and efficiency. Picking the optimal study environment is crucial to surviving finals with the least amount of agony. So plan ahead and save yourself the burden of having to study formulas to the backdrop of the latest campus gossip/chatter.

Perhaps this advice is for the more adventurous who dare to drive, take public transport or find a ride to study destinations off campus. If studying on campus is set in stone in your mind, there are many spots on campus that will continue to be available. Be it the comfy chairs in Mandel, the modernized Upper Green Room or your secret undisclosed favorite spot, take your pick. However, it is important to note that all of these will likely be moderately—rather, significantly—more crowded come finals time. Keep in mind that getting around the Greater Boston area is not as difficult as it may appear. Perhaps you can split some time studying on campus with time added in off campus.

Within a five-mile radius of Brandeis there are many gems for eating and studying available if you seek them out. Down the road is an upcoming Panera’s which will hopefully be open soon, and there is already a Panera’s open on Lexington Street near the Waltham/Lexington border.

If you like Starbucks, but don’t want to deal with library chaos, there is a fairly small, usually quiet one in Newton Lower Falls that welcomes students. There is always Prime Deli with many tables open if you go at the right time, as well as South Street Market, both of which are very close. Dunkin’ Donuts can be a hit-or-miss depending on how crowded it is, but besides being all over Massachusetts, most Dunkin’s have Wi-Fi, many tables and, of course, great coffee. My personal favorite study spot is Cafe on the Common on Main St.; it’s spacious and provides a warm, comfortable atmosphere.
So what are some added perks of studying off campus? In addition to everything mentioned above, studying off campus lets you get away from the stressful atmosphere on campus around finals time. Generally, cafes and coffee shops are positive, upbeat places with nice music, good food and perhaps even a warm fire. A variety of people will be at the cafe be it for relaxing, studying or doing work outside the office. This can be much less pressure than on campus, where everyone is overloaded with limited time and space to accomplish what needs to get done. In addition, many cafes and coffee shops have large windows so that you do not feel as trapped and can take a look at your surroundings or people watch instead of wasting time on Facebook when you need a break. You also don’t have to worry about lack of outlets, unless it is super crowded on that particular day. Best part, but perhaps not so for your wallet, if you need a snack you have fresh pastries, bread and yogurt waiting to be purchased.

It’s important to know what makes a good study spot for you when choosing an off-campus destination. Some people prefer some noise, others prefer complete silence, so knowing what fits your style is key when it comes to choosing a place. General necessities include Wi-Fi, comfortable seating and a desk to do work on. I like to have an environment where it’s not too hot or cold, and there is ample space away from the door so you don’t have wind casually blowing in your face whenever anyone walks in. I also like to make sure there is no limit on how long I am allowed to stay. There is nothing more aggravating than finally being able to get work done—or started—and then being told there is an hour’s stay limit. (Or getting angry glares suggesting such.)

With all this in mind it can be very rewarding to break away from your usual spot and try something new. If your friends, preferably those with cars, aren’t too much of a distraction, then you can help them out too, come the craziness that is finals.