Oberlin Blogs

Reflections upon the lovelier times during midterms week

October 28, 2010

Sophia Chen ’12

The week before fall break is commonly known as midterms week, where professors grill your brain and take a bite out of it to determine if you've soaked up sufficient seasoning to deserve a "Satisfactory Progress" on your midterm report. While midterm exams are indeed the centerpiece of the week, the name "midterms week" is a bit misleading: yes, we take exams, but they consist of about 3% of the entire week. (I calculated it: 5 hours of exam time ÷ (24 hours/day times 7 days/week) ≈ 0.03.) For me, it's a week of unnecessary sweating, discovering new greasy foods, and inventing new ways to distract myself from studying. Most of it goes by like an out-of-body experience: the entity known as Sophia completes her tasks as needed, but I do not remember willing the entity known as Sophia to do so. The most memorable parts of the week are actually the study breaks.

This semester, I actually had my exams several weeks before midterms week because my professors thought they were doing us a favor. "I believe that giving an exam the week before fall recess is cruel!" my quantum mechanics professor, the notorious but lovable Dan Styer, said two weeks ago. He promptly administered a three-hour take-home exam that I did not finish. I ate half a pound of cheese after taking it.

My exams were over, but my week was still as dense as a poundcake: I still had problem sets due, data to take, and papers to write. Since I was done with exams by midterms week, my gut instinct was to turn my brain off and play online Dominion. I was mostly successful in ignoring this instinct, but in my more vulnerable moments, I found myself abandoning the books for some meaningful frivolity. I ate chunks of brie with my chum Chloe. My cohort Harmony and I took a 15-minute break from studying to give each other epic back massages. I drank gallons of peppermint tea between lines of Java code. I went to the A Capella Study Break under the library ramp, where all the a capella groups perform the Wednesday of midterms week.

The best study break was when Jenny, my buddy and co-head cook in Pyle, my fellow cooks, and I made burritos from scratch for co-op dinner on Wednesday. We made fresh salsa with tomatoes and jalapenos; fresh tortillas; well-seasoned beans. We'd planned the meal a week in advance to ensure we had all the necessary ingredients, so watching bleary-eyed co-opers shovel in the food we'd made was especially rewarding. I also ate a lot of cheese at that meal.

It's fall break now, which means that I'm home; I try not to change out of my pajamas all day; my mother tucks me into bed before I promptly pass out at 10 p.m., and stress eating has been replaced by relaxation eating. Four more days before I return to that spicy tofu dish, Oberlin College...

*Okay, I did sleep. I spent about 25% of my midterms week sleeping.

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