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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Univ. needs to provide more time to reacclimate to student life

Published: January 16, 2015
Section: Opinions

As the ball dropped in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, and the calendar moved from December into January, I realized that I had to be back at college in less than two weeks. Feeling like I only got home a week prior, I was certainly not looking forward to having to head back to school so soon. Feelings of regret sprung up as I realized that I shouldn’t have slept in as much instead of doing something productive, or maybe I should have slept as much as I could have in preparation of not being able to during school.

Yet it wasn’t the fact that the winter break was a measly three weeks that dawned on me as I was heading back to campus on Sunday night. Instead, I felt overwhelmed by the prospect of moving back into my room and then having class 12 hours later. I didn’t feel all that prepared for it and would have liked some time to settle myself back into campus. I had to get used to waking up at 7 a.m. again and not having a fridge stocked with food I didn’t pay for. The time between when residence halls open and classes begin is simply not enough to get back into the swing of things on campus.

It’s not that I didn’t get enough time at home; after a few days I had already grown tired of my family. But having to get back to school, unpack and then prepare for classes the next day is just stressful, and this process doesn’t have to be this stressful. Walking to class this past Monday felt odd. I had just gotten back to school, yet I had to get right back to class. It is petty, I admit, but I would have liked more time to get more in sync with Brandeis and get refocused on academics.

It isn’t like there is simply no time in the calendar to give students a day or two to get reacquainted with the campus. The simplest solution would be to open dorms on the Saturday before the semester begins instead of Sunday. Students would then have time to readjust and to make preparations, such as purchasing supplies and books and finding out where their classes are held.

Affording students some sort of resting period during which they can transition from living at home to living at school would make the start of the semester go a lot smoother for everyone involved. Students would feel more relaxed in terms of heading to class and professors wouldn’t have to worry about students overstressing about the start of classes. Students could have a better idea of what they need for a class so that they don’t show up unprepared, or just be more calm after getting a day off, giving a dedicated resting period just makes too much sense not to do it.

I visited a friend from back home at his school over the break, and his school constructs their schedule a little bit differently. First of all, they hold final exams for the fall semester after the winter break, which seems like a terrible idea for the sake of being able to pass, and something I do not endorse. After moving back to school a few days after New Year’s, students are given a full reading week to study for their finals. What follows is the actual two-week final exam period, and then a few days off before the start of spring semester classes. With every student back on campus a week before anything is actually due, it allows everyone to get back into the mindset needed to wake up on time and head to class instead of thinking it’s all right to keep hitting snooze. Even without the time used for studying and final exams, this other school still allows students a few days to settle in before classes begin. And numerous other schools give this period to students before the spring semester starts, usually utilizing the three-day weekend as the break before classes start.

For the fall semester, returning students are allowed to move back onto campus two days before the start of classes, so why isn’t the same schedule used for the spring? Of course, students have to be given time to move into their dorms, but there are students moving on and off campus all the time. Students coming back from studying abroad in the fall have to still move all of their stuff back into their room, so it isn’t expected that every single student gets back to school with just a suitcase. Besides, with the large amount of international students, Brandeis should offer more time for people to get back in the area, instead of just opening residence halls fewer than 24 hours before classes start. We don’t need a longer winter break, just a chance to dust off the cobwebs and remind ourselves that we are college students and not simply a giant pair of sweatpants sitting on the couch.