Culture

It is nearing the end of the semester and you are shooting your finals down one by one. Everyone is exhausted. Everyone is happy that the semester is over. Everyone is going home.

Many students in my school come from another state, even another country. It is rare for me to find another native New Yorker on campus. During these hectic times, it is difficult to get your friends together to have a final farewell when they’re busy packing their suitcases.

They, on the other hand, are leaving the friends they’ve made during the semester to return to a town where things have changed. For any situation, there is a sense of time passing, of things being different, and sometimes that can be hard.

Being the only one left around, it feels kind of lonely. For those leaving, sometimes we can feel excluded. Sure, there are things to do in NYC, but what’s the fun of doing them if you’re doing them alone? And when everyone back at home has changed too, how can we still hang out?

Here’s the thing, and I think I’m just figuring it out. Being alone and having that breathing room isn’t a bad thing. It’s a scary thing, but not all scary things are bad. Sometimes we get so used to being with friends at school, with meeting them for lunch before class or for dinner after seminar or on Friday night for drinks that we forget that we have changed along the way. Winter break is a break from school, but it’s also a break from people. Going back home is a way of taking a break from what you know and seeing how far you’ve come. It’s a good time to reconnect with the most important person. Yourself.

Now, this is kind of hard for me. I’ve grown used to hanging out on my friend’s sofa in Nolita and having weekly mid­week dinners. It’s become routine. At the same time, I haven’t seen friends from high school, cleaned my closet out, or thought to see if my opinions on things have changed. How am I different from when the semester first started? Did I learn anything valuable about myself along the way? Did I grow as a person? How? Why?

While this a brutal thing to do, winter break is a good time to do these things because there is breathing space from all the people who have been influencing us in the first place. Back at home, whether in a suburban town on the West coast or in a city in Asia, there is a sense of “I’m different” that naturally comes with time. It may be lonely, and relieving, to get away from it all, but in the end, it’s what you make of it.

Image: Tomasz Paciorek

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The semester is well underway and I’m sure, aside from getting involved in a gazillion clubs, juggling a job or an internship, and trying to have some kind of a social life, everyone is swamped with loads of homework. As I’m typing, many people are probably rushing to finish up their calculus problems or putting the final touches on a paper that is due in a few days. Whatever the case may be, there just never seems to be enough time in the day to get everything done.

Pulling all-nighters and working well after midnight aren’t unusual scenarios. We fall asleep on our textbooks only to wake up in the morning ready to fall back into the same routine. College is extremely hard and the moments when you get to kick back and relax are extremely rare. Even then, the days when you do get a chance to take a break from schoolwork (i.e. the weekend) are usually not as laid-back as you would like them to be because there is always an exam to study for, a paper to write, or an assignment to complete.

They say coffee is a college student’s best friend, but spending the day (or even the night) working on homework isn’t the way to go about college because overworking yourself can cause your brain to melt into a pile of mush. Maybe that isn’t what really happens but, without the occasional break from schoolwork, you’ll eventually stress yourself out, and being stressed has many negative effects on your mind and body.

Whenever you’re at that point where you just want to rip your hair out, step away from your computer, put down the book you’re reading, and set aside that calculator. Your work will be there once you take a 10-15 break (or however long you think you need). It’s not going to get up and walk away, so use some of your time to rest your brain and stretch those legs because I’m sure you spend hours on end plastered to a chair (or your bed) whenever you do homework. If you can’t figure out to do with your free time, here is a list of things to do to help you unwind.

  1. Get a snack: Studying and homework is almost impossible to do on an empty stomach, so get something to munch on and something to drink so you’re not depriving your body of the nutrients you need. For better brain power, try eating healthy snacks. And no, potato chips are not an essential part of the food pyramid.
  2. Stretching/exercising: I have a friend who does lunges whenever she needs a break from doing her homework. You don’t have to do lunges, but stretching might be a good thing to do to keep your body from cramping up after hours of sitting. If you really want to get that heart pounding, try doing some jumping jacks.
  3. Read a book: And I don’t mean a textbook. Pick up a book that isn’t for school and read one or two chapters to get your mind off of your homework and allow yourself to slip into another world.
  4. Listen to music: Turn on your favorite band or singer and rock out to your favorite songs. You can sing along or dance or do whatever it takes for you to destress.
  5. Go for a walk: You don’t have to go too far, but you can walk around your residence hall or apartment complex a few times just to get some fresh air and get out of the confines of the four walls of your room so you don’t go stir crazy.
  6. Play a game: Games are a great way to keep your mind busy. More importantly, you get to have fun!
  7. Straighten up your room: I’m not sure about you, but my side of the room always seems to get out of hand whenever I’m studying or doing homework. I can’t do anything until my side of the room is in order and everything that was out of place is back into place.
  8. Check your email: When we’re busy with class and school work, sometimes we forget to check our inboxes to see if we received any important emails. Use your free time to make sure we’re not missing out on anything.
  9. Talk to people: Start up a conversation with your roommate, text a friend, or call a family member. It doesn’t matter who you talk to, but it’s important to get your mind off of your homework for a bit and what better way to do that than to converse with people about things that have nothing to do with homework.
  10. Set your alarm and take a nap: Of course I had to save the best for last. If you find yourself not wanting to do anything on this list, it might be time for a nap. After 30-45 minutes of resting your eyes, you should feel refreshed and ready to finish your homework.

There are a variety of things you can do to take a break from homework. Just remember not to spend too much time (more than an hour) taking a break. Also, don’t feel bad about taking a break. We all need one so our bodies and brain don’t shut down after hours of staring at the pages of a thick textbook or a computer screen. You might feel like there is not enough time in the day, but you have the power to make time, so try to work taking breaks into your schedule the best you can because you deserve it.

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For those of you who are about to embark on spring break or are still anticipating the sweet arrival for a long needed rest, here are some ways to relax while still remaining productive!

1)   Grab your calendar. Spend thirty minutes writing down everything you need to keep track of for the rest of the semester. For example, pull out your classes’ syllabi and mark down when assignments are due and when exams are taking place. Having everything marked visually in one place give you a good sense of what is coming up – stress less and take time for fun!

2)   Volunteer. If you are at home and looking for something to do, consider donating your time to volunteerism. Not only will you be doing good in the neighborhood, but you will have the opportunity to learn something new about your community. Check out Volunteer Match to start helping!

3)   Work out. In between your classes, friends, exams, homework, eating, sleeping, etc., it can be difficult to find time for exercise. Whether you go on a run, sign up for a trial-period at a nearby gym, or spend an hour outside doing yoga, take some time and sweat it out!

4)   Find a job or internship. This is easier said than done, but with just three months until summer it is a good idea to begin applying within the next few weeks. Websites like Intern Sushi and The Muse are great places to start the hunt!

5)   Rest. Your body needs to rest. Don’t feel bad about sleeping in or taking the mid-day nap you never have time for at school. After midterms your body is likely in need of some rest and relaxation.

If you are going on a trip with friends or family make sure to check out our tips on how to stay safe while traveling and have an awesome break!

 

Image credit: www.2013yearoflettering.tumblr.com