Reading period: a time to pause and wind down

By SOPHIA LOLA | May 2, 2019

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RDSMITH4 / CC BY.SA 2.5

Milton S. Eisenhower Library, a space frequented by workaholic JHU students.

The countdown to finals is getting dangerously low. Get excited, folks. Even the worst of procrastinators — myself included — are beginning to settle down and spend some quality time with their textbooks and laptops in order to prepare for this most hellish of hell weeks. Before that, though, is a four-day reprieve: reading period. 

Reading period is supposed to give us extra time for studying — something we Hopkins students knowingly signed ourselves up for when we decided to enroll here and something we also love to complain about. It’s a good opportunity to quite literally live in Brody, if that’s something on your bucket list. 

But that’s the wonderful part of reading period: We technically have nothing to do. There’s nowhere we actually have to be (various personal commitments notwithstanding). Our time is all free in the sense that for once, how we spend it is all up to us. Of course we should spend a lot of it studying if we want to do well during finals, which I’m assuming most of us do, but why not take advantage of this interlude in other ways too? Why not treat it as another weekend or even a long weekend instead of just pre-finals?

Reading period is the only extended period of time during the semester when there is no academic programming but when campus isn’t also partially or totally shut down, like during holidays and breaks. After those four days, we’ll be trapped in exam rooms and packing to go home, and then it’s all over until next year — “it” being the slog of homework and finals but also our time with our friends and peers here. No, we’re not quite through with our academic commitments for the year; finals do demand a lot of preparation. But we made it through classes, and that in and of itself is an accomplishment. On top of studying, we can take some time to celebrate the end of the year while we’re all still on campus.

It’s not like there’s nothing to do, either. Check out Baila! or the Buttered Niblets or any number of other events on campus this weekend. Go to a party. RSVP “yes” to your organization’s formal. Venture out into Baltimore or even all the way to D.C. for a free Around the World Embassy Tour on Saturday. Watch Netflix. Cook a nice meal. Experience the joy of not setting an alarm and instead sleeping until your body actually wants to wake up.

I know this isn’t that profound. That there are so many things happening this weekend, specifically on campus, is testament to the fact that many of us are not in fact planning to spend every single waking second studying, even if we say we will (and some of us will still probably come close). 

But I challenge us to take it a step further: Don’t feel bad about not spending all your time studying. Even when we take a break, we still feed into that toxic Hopkins culture of overwork if we feel ashamed about taking it, if we feel like taking a break means we can’t handle what’s on our plate. So squash that nagging feeling that will make you wonder if you could’ve gotten a few extra points on your exam if you had just kept studying. 

Because here’s the thing — and it’s something that’s starting to be said a lot but bears repeating. The problem with our campus culture is not that we feel obligated to do a lot of work. The problem is when we let it choke off the other things we want out of life, like a regular sleep schedule and meaningful relationships and pursuing passions and interests that lie outside of academics. Those are normal, healthy things to want, and it’s also great to want to do quality work for our classes. Studying should not always win out, not even during reading period.

So on that note, happy reading period, good luck with finals and have a great summer!

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