This semester feels like a never-ending marathon. With midterm season upon us, students must constantly juggle exams, papers, applications and extracurriculars. To add to this stress, there are no formal breaks this semester in the 11 weeks between Labor Day and Thanksgiving.
To learn effectively, students must balance work and leisure. Currently, we’re surviving deadline to deadline with only sleep deprivation and stress to show for it. We question our ability to keep this up until late November.
In past years, Hopkins students have had one or two days off in mid-October, constituting their fall break. Although the University added two extra days to our final exam reading period, it should not have removed fall break from this year’s academic calendar.
Reading period and fall break, though both important, are not equivalent. While reading period provides students time to study and prepare for finals, fall break is an opportunity to decompress during a very stressful period of the semester. Hopkins is demanding and without a break, we’re forced to approach the semester on autopilot; this almost always leads to burn out in the end.
Designated breaks are essential reminders that there is more to Baltimore (and life) than Brody. Students should have the opportunity to take a break from classes and explore a new neighborhood or museum in the city. Expecting students and faculty to go through the motions in an unending loop is detrimental and unsustainable.
Also, we’re confused.
The Peabody Institute is providing its undergraduate students with a fall break this term. This begs the question: Why does one division have a break and others do not? It also presents an issue for students taking inter-divisional classes, as the lack of a Homewood fall break essentially nullifies the “break” part of their supposed long weekend.
When students asked about the omission of fall break, an administrator replied that, “it allows the Thanksgiving break to be an entire week.” Additionally, the academic calendar refers to Thanksgiving week as “fall break.” This doesn’t make sense; in previous years, we have had both fall break and Thanksgiving break, neither sacrificed at the expense of the other.
Further, deeming Thanksgiving the new fall break is problematic, considering the break occurs in the penultimate week of the semester. With finals looming, Thanksgiving is not a restful break, but rather a time to study and (hopefully) enjoy some quality time with family.
Here we are again, witnessing yet another manifestation of our University’s toxic campus culture in real time. Rather than providing all students with the opportunity to rest, care for their mental health and avoid a mid-semester slump, it seems students will be on a nonstop grind until the semester’s end.
The Student Government Association (SGA) has proposed its own solution, calling for the two additional reading days to be converted into mid-semester mental health days. Although it is consoling knowing our student representatives are trying to revert the calendar, we shouldn’t have to settle on this trade off.
If the University wants to show its commitment to promoting wellness and proper work-life balance, we should be able to enjoy both a reading period and a mid-semester break. We learned last spring how insufficient breaks from work induced burn out when we had wellness days throughout the term instead of a week-long spring break. Even then, the first wellness day was closer to the start of the term than Thanksgiving break is to Labor Day; this semester, students must wait an additional 20 days to get a break.
We need a break now more than ever. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and repeated policy changes as a result of it, continue to add additional stress to our lives. Currently, the only students on campus who have spent an entire normal year at Hopkins are seniors. On top of that, we’re all still acclimating to in-person learning after being remote for over a year.
Even if the academic calendar doesn’t promote our well-being, we must take it into our own hands. Schedule time with friends that isn’t studying, treat yourself to a heartwarming meal and do your best to follow a healthy sleep schedule. We must prioritize balance to get through this semester, whether or not the University provides a formal day or two off from class.