Maintaining Sanity in the Midst of Finals

All around me, my friends and classmates are slowly losing their minds as the stress of final papers, projects, and exams takes over, and the overwhelming desire to be home baking cookies and decorating the Christmas tree with their families consumes any ambition they ever had to study.

In my opinion, this isn’t the most effective mindset to enter finals week with, getting three hours of sleep a night and worrying about a tenth of a percentage point that you need on the final to clinch that grade you’re hoping for in a certain class.  While it’s true that I’ve been guilty of these things as well, I’m not proud to admit it, and instead of complaining about the stress that we’re all experiencing and holing up in my apartment for the entirety of finals, I’ve decided to take care of my whole person at this hectic time of year … not just my academic self. Cura personalis at its finest, right?

I’m one of the most serious students you’ll meet, but in my year and a half at Loyola, I’ve also come to realize that if I don’t allow myself time for fun and bonding with friends, the intensity of school and the endless assignments will drown my own personality and desire to explore and discover.  So even during finals, I’ve allowed myself time for some of the most important things in my life: friends, food, and adventure.

The weekend before last, with finals quickly approaching and one day of classes left to go, my roommate Meagan and I took a break from studying and paper writing to attend Chordbusters, a hugely popular on-campus concert that occurs once a semester, featuring Loyola’s two a cappella groups, the Belles and the Chimes. We bought tickets at the beginning of the week and looked forward to this major event all week. When it finally came, we enjoyed every second of seeing our immensely talented friends and classmates on stage belting songs by Mumford and Sons, Maroon 5, Christina Aguilera, and fun.

After the show we made a spur of the moment decision with a few of our other friends to make a late-night trip to Sip & Bite Restaurant, a classic diner in the Canton neighborhood of Baltimore. Among the five of us we enjoyed breakfast, burgers, dessert, and coffee, and for a few hours forgot about impending exams, focusing instead on catching up, laughing, and enjoying some of our last quality moments together before break.

With my friends Meagan and Sara at Sip and Bite.

In the middle of exam week, just a few days ago, I designated two evenings to invite two friends of mine over so that I could cook dinner for them. The great part about exam week, in my opinion at least, is that you don’t have classes and extracurricular commitments, and therefore have more free time to study and do things that become rarities at college (watch TV, make a nice dinner, go to bed early, bake banana bread, etc.)

The first night, with Kaitlyn, one of my best friends, was a bittersweet moment, as we said goodbye before she leaves to study abroad in Rome for the spring semester. Since I’m planning to study abroad for the entirety of next year, we’ve come to the end of our time at Loyola together. We talked about Kaitlyn’s plans for Rome, the family she’ll be staying with, and our work plans for the summer. We watched Jeopardy! together after dinner and tried to delay the unavoidable moment when we would both break into tears and embrace each other tightly at my front door. I can honestly say that those few hours with one of my best friends was a night I will never forget, as I realized just how much someone who has helped to define my time at Loyola means to me … and I took the time to express it to her.

With Kaitlyn at Loyolapalooza last spring.

This past weekend, while many people had exams on Friday and Saturday, I was lucky to have a break from Thursday afternoon until Monday morning. I knew I wouldn’t study for my Monday final until Sunday, so I took the time I finally had to take a Friday morning train to New York City and visit my friend Alexa from high school, who now goes to college in the city. We spent two days getting student rush tickets to Broadway shows, eating NYC burgers and bagels, and taking in the beauty of the city at Christmastime. I returned home Saturday night and collapsed for a long sleep before dedicating my Sunday to studying for my Interest Groups final exam, which was very productively accomplished at Chocolatea, a local cafe.

Rockefeller Center in New York City with my friend Alexa.

As it turns out, I never allowed the end-of-semester stress to get to me, and this afternoon, before studying for my last final exam (Politics of Russia, tomorrow morning), my roommate Jen and I are heading up the street to Carma’s Cafe in Charles Village for a quick lunch.  If you take care of yourself, study a lot, and balance that studying with some fun, I think finals can be the chillest time of the semester … at least, that’s the way it’s turned out for me.

Merry Christmas and best wishes for the holidays and a happy new year!  See you next semester!

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