MCCULLOUGH: Study rush leads students to brink of insanity

Will McCullough

The most recent break from school certainly was relaxing; I’m sure everyone can attest to that. Spending time with our families, friends, turkey and television certainly makes for a nice time away from school.

However, the wise words of Elwood and Jake Blues can best convey what is about to, or has already, happened: “It’s 106 miles to Chicago; we’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark and we’re wearing sunglasses.” “Hit it.”

I do not want to bore most of you with details I am sure you already know, but the brothers spend a brief moment before racing to Chicago being chased by a large number of law enforcement individuals.

While many of us took more than a moment to step away from our studies during break, we all know that this and the next couple of weeks will be a proverbial high speed chase to Chicago. The amount of work that has to be done between now and Dec. 19th is enough to qualify as borderline insanity.

This rush to completion is by no means limited to the student body. With near certainty, I can say that every professor I have had in fall semesters has explicitly stated that the few remaining class meetings will have more work, or an alteration of the syllabus to accommodate some lag that has occurred over the semester.

In no way would I dare to consider myself even remotely qualified to make a judgmental statement on this occurrence, but I do know that it happens frequently, right or wrong.

I can say with much more authority that every student, at least at some point during the next couple of weeks, will have a gross amount of work to complete in a small amount of time. I will leave it to lesser minds to predict the exact wording of future away messages, but we can all imagine that many will include the name of a building and an infinite period of time that will be spent there. Where each of us decides to reside for our studies can be as much a question of form as it is function. That is, the aura the surface of any building provides can aid or hinder our ability to work.

For instance, if I were to walk into Bartley Hall with my laptop and try to type a paper, I couldn’t do it. Every time I walk into the building, I get intimidated and mentally engulfed. I feel like I am going to the dentist’s office as I ascend the stairs and enter the intellectually sterile environment the building provides.

These feelings follow me to my work space and generally bar me from doing any work. Instead, I prefer the basement Tolentine computer lab, or what has come to be known as the Tolentine Dungeon. There is something about crossing the threshold of that perfectly aged building that rouses my ability to churn out papers.

Is it possible that my behavior is neurotic?

Absolutely. However, I hope you won’t be so quick to jump to conclusions.

I can’t imagine anyone who would not agree that the atmosphere of a work space is vital for the completion of the work. Although my example may take this to a new and distinctly weird level, I view my neurosis as a type of security blanket that may be common to all.

This realization came to me from an experience I had sophomore year. At the time I had not found my true studying comfort zone. It was a period of experimentation for me, and at the time I happened to be in the deceivingly titled “24 hour study lounge.” I say deceivingly titled because every night the lounge is cleared for five minutes at 11:55 p.m. while it is inspected for library books that mischievous students apparently hide in an attempt to not check them out through the proper channels.

Unaware of the nightly inspection, I sat there comfortably doing some work, when, at about 11:35, people started to vacate the lounge. After the announcement was made, I collected my things and as I walked outside, I was confronted with a line that, to my surprise had been forming for 25 minutes. When the door opened after the inspection, people who seemed normal enough were transformed into rabid lunatics who systematically ran to the “best” spots (usually corresponding to power outlets for laptops).

This transformation was caused by the same reasons that I can’t get any serious work done in Bartley. There is nothing about the physical space that prevents work from being finished. Each individual needs her or his security blanket.

What some call studying or doing work could easily be confused with sleep deprivation experiments. For many, the human body is capable of running much longer than any of us originally thought. Some time around the 30th hour of being awake, all sense of fatigue is replaced by a haze of scholastic production. Usually occurring after enough caffeine to kill a small child has been consumed, the thought processes change.

You become delirious and dream of better days when you didn’t have to read 10 books or study for six exams. (Of course, none of this is based on any kind of empirical evidence; instead, it is based on experiences within the community of cram.) We couldn’t go through any of that if we didn’t each have our own comfort measures, if we weren’t completely one with our surroundings.

It’s done because we all want to get good grades, to get the job, to get into different post-grad programs or (Oh no! Could it be?) to learn something. For all the differences the various majors and schools have, everyone knows the feeling of immensity when dealing with final school-related work. Whether you are locked in the basement of Tolentine or dressed for success in Bartley, everyone plugs along and finishes their work.

Find your building, whether you prefer the ghosts of St. Mary’s, the night dragons of Tolentine, the scholars of Falvey or the future executives of Bartley. Regardless of whether or not you are aware of it, you are going to need it.