“Gimme a Break!” - Fun During Finals

Yale’s campus is pretty quiet now.  Classes are over for the semester.  Most people are in libraries, classrooms, or suites—studying.  This is Reading Week.  (I promise you, this post gets better!  Read on…)

After the culmination of first semester classes, students have a week to review their notes and study for their final exams.  Some students break off into study groups.  Other students attend review sessions led by professors.  Some students choose to work by themselves.  Regardless of how they study, everyone is getting ready for finals.

But it is impossible to study for twenty-four hours a day seven days straight.  Eventually everyone needs a break.  When I say “break,” you might be thinking I mean a couple of minutes on Facebook or itunes.   While those breaks can be helpful (or distracting), Yale provides its students with numerous opportunities to de-stress and relax as they prepare for final exams.

At the start of Reading Week, Yale Dining hosts a Holiday Dinner at each residential college.  Freshmen are treated to a special holiday dinner called “The Freshman Dinner,” a tradition that dates back to the 1950s.  Students dress up in semi-formal attire and sit in a grand dining hall decorated to look like a winter wonderland.  For more on the Freshman Dinner, see Josh’s blog from last year, The Freshman Dinner.

At the Freshman Dinner, I sat at a long table with many of my friends.  We were able to catch up and talk about our semester.  We spoke about our classes, our activities, and our reflections on the first half of freshman year.  It was great to step out of the classroom and take a break with my friends.  

Chirstmas lights strung up in arch shapes in the Commons dining hall. Photo Credit: Joy Shan

Freshmen in formalwear. Photo Credit: Joy Shan

An elaborate food display at the Freshman Dinner. Photo Credit: Joy Shan

Sushi arranged in the shape of a letter Y. Photo Credit: Joy Shan

An enormous gingerbread house on display at the Holiday Dinner. Photo Credit: Emily Klopfer

But study breaks don’t stop with the Holiday Dinner.  Over the course of Reading Week, each residential college hosts study breaks for its students.  Students can come to the snack bar in the basement of their college and rest their minds.  Each college provides snacks, games, and music.  On Sunday night, Calhoun hosted a tamales study break.  Last night, we had a buffalo chicken study break.  Tonight, who knows?  It’s always a surprise.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed for brick oven pizza.

"The Trolley Stop", Calhoun College's buttery.

Aside from residential college-sponsored study breaks, cultural houses also host study breaks.  For example, the Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life has hired a massage therapist for the entire week.  Massages are free and are open to the entire student body.  I’m signed up for a massage on Thursday. 

In addition, many performance groups on campus hold shows throughout Reading Week.  After studying all day, there is nothing like seeing a dance show, an improv show, a play, a standup routine, an a cappella concert, or a band to relax. 

Promotional poster for a Yale Improve Troupe performance.

A poster for the Danceworks show "Welcome to the Jungle".

"Something Extra" vocal performance.

Reading Week is the chance to study and rest up before entering the final stretch of the semester.   While it is important to study hard, Yale acknowledges that it is also important to catch up on sleep, relax and have some fun before finals begin.  So after studying for my philosophy final, I took a break from my work and decorated the outside of my dorm with friends.  Now, I feel rejuvenated and am ready to dive back into my studying! 

"HOUN" spelled out on the outside of the Calhoun College freshmen residence hall with Christmas lights. Photo credit: Joy Shan