Oberlin Blogs

Finals are fun!

December 15, 2009

Alicia Smith ’10

If you ask an Obie how they're doing during finals time, there is a 98% chance they will respond, "I'M SO TIRED" in a tone of utter despair. Moans and groans of the stresses of paper writing and studying for exams are in constant circulation in the air of Wilder Bowl--and everywhere else for that matter. These mundane finals-related conversations become routine--most the time I don't even think about what I'm saying.

"I'm really exhausted. This week is so stressful," I'll say, even if I'm not that tired or I'm not stressing about the paper I'm currently working on. I can't even imagine what someone would say if they asked me how I was doing and I responded, "I am doing so great. I got ten hours of sleep last night and this essay I'm currently working on has invigorated my academic spirit. Thanks for asking!" It's almost like it's socially unacceptable to be well-rested and happy this week.

Half of my Facebook friends seem to have statuses stating something like, "Oh my goodness, I hate finals!" or "Three more days until I will be back in [place hometown here]!" Facebook turns into a finals support group. Statuses about lack of sleep and never-ending work are usually greeted with a comment such as "You can do it!" or "Me too!" Finals foster community, and community is a beautiful thing.

Despite the omnipresent tired eyes and complaints, I've come to the conclusion that people secretly [semi-] like [some aspects of] this time of year even if they don't realize it. I will admit that every aspect of finals period isn't glorious. This paper I've been working on for the past few days relating a Buddhist nun's identity with the theories of Foucault is starting to eat away at my soul. But other than that, things are just fine.

When finals period rolls around, personal guidelines in nutrition automatically go out the window. Traditional rules of eating are nullified--break out copious amounts of energy drinks, candy, and potato chips! While it may not be socially acceptable to eat an entire family-size bag of [place junk food here] during non-finals time, the onset of reading period seems to give people the right to eat whatever they can get their hands on while attempting to stay awake during intense study sessions. Stevenson dining hall even has late-night breakfast during reading period. Do I really need pancakes and sausage at 10pm? Probably not. But it's free, it's potentially tasty, and it's an easy way to socialize and procrastinate...so why not?

My friend Liz recently pointed out that fashion rules seem to be non-existent when finals roll around. Sure, my fashion rules are close to non-existent anyways, but I am sometimes surprised by the transformation of students who are usually quite dapper. I bet the percentage of people that wear jeans during this week has gone down at least 20%, and hooded sweatshirts are certainly experiencing a spike in usage. Pajama pants are escaping the bedroom and making their way to Mudd at lightning speed. Watch out!

In addition to cyclical noshing and ubiquitous sleepwear, finals period is the ultimate time for bonding with friends. More often than not, I see people flocking to the library in groups. The first floor of Mudd is not exactly quiet, and during finals time the volume seems to be amplified. Is this because intense math review sessions are going on? Or are students intensely debating Marxist theory? Somehow, I doubt both of these situations are always the reason for the noise level. If I go to the library with friends, I spend approximately 57% of the time doing work, and the other 43% of the time is spent chatting with friends, having Sporcle competitions, perusing Facebook, and checking my email excessively.

One of my newest procrastination activities involves my friend Christina and I discussing bizarre "What if" situations with each other via Facebook [even though we are in the same room]. All of the situations involve crazy things to do in the library [or whatever place of study we are currently in] that would totally disrupt everyone, and the social order at-large. For example:

Example #1 [never pursued]: "What if I just ripped off my sweatshirt and sweatpants, revealing some spandex shorts and a tank top, put on a sweatband, threw down my books, leapt out of my chair, and started running in place while periodically throwing punches like Rocky? Then, what if I proceeded to run laps around the third floor of Mudd, singing along to a workout mix on my iPod? After about 30 minutes, I'd probably be dripping with sweat. I'd start running up to unsuspecting people to desperately beg for water and Power Bars..."

Example #2 [I actually did this. The setting was at my Union Street residence in the company of about six other people, all attempting to study in the living room. It was semi-silent and there was an air of studiousness]: "What if I just started blasting "Vampire" from the Juno soundtrack on my computer speakers? Then, while it's playing, what if I went to the kitchen, approached the sink, turned it on full blast, and just stared at it intensely for about five minutes as it ran? If someone asks what I'm doing, I'd say that I am thoroughly cleaning a dish and I don't want to be disturbed...."

These "what if" situations typically end up taking up far more time than expected, and we usually end up laughing until I am in tears.

In closing, my over-arching message to current and prospective Obies is this:

Don't take finals period [or anything else in life] too seriously. Sure, your performance this week will ultimately affect your GPA, which will ultimately affect your job options, which will ultimately affect your salary, which will ultimately affect your life satisfaction. But really, it doesn't matter that much. So keep on working hard, but make sure you leave some time for Facebook chatting, snacking until you feel ill, and "studying" with friends. Before you know it, finals will be over and you will be back home celebrating [place appropriate December holiday here]. Stress lives on forever, but college doesn't.

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