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Nov. 28, 2002, Gazette

Make or break time

Katie Norman
Midterm break, reading week, fall break, catch up time ... no matter what you call it everyone makes use of the time off in a different way. Many universities in Canada have omitted the fall break, leaving only a spring break for students in the winter semester. Thankfully at MUN, each term we can look forward to three extra days off — a five-day weekend is nothing to scoff at.

On Nov. 11, 12 and 13 the campus was a little less hectic, and for those around next semester, they can look forward to a similar break Feb. 24-26. Bags are packed up, people head home to see their families and to get a little rest and relaxation. Other students stay on campus and take advantage of the empty libraries and the chance to catch up on homework.

In the case of many students, it is a feeling of relief that accompanies the midterm break. While you may have a list of 25 things to do and you probably won't get half of them completed, it is nice to know that you can fall no further behind. There will be no Spanish pop quizzes, no chemistry tests or history papers due, just five days to spend as you like.

I fully support the notion of midterm break; it allowed me to clear my head, reflect on the term and make the necessary adjustments to my study schedule so that I will be able to finish off the term successfully. While I am a little skeptical of the name “midterm break” (when it does fall just three weeks from the end of lectures) this skepticism is not enough to deter me from enjoying the time off. In fact the University Diary uses a more appropriate term: Fall Semester Break.

I set off around campus to find out what people really did during the fall break. Did they maximize study time and spend the days hitting the books hard-core? Or perhaps they looked at this time as a party weekend just before exams?

As I had expected many students spent time catching up on work that they had been avoiding or finishing off papers and assignments. Meghan Felt, a first year bachelor of music student, said, “Over midterm break I caught up on a lot of work.”

I, too, spent a good deal of time studying for a psychology exam that was on the first Thursday back to classes, and polishing off a term paper.

Other students like Tim Pottle, a second year student, balanced a little bit of everything. “I hung out, did some work, took numerous 'smoke' breaks ... [it] wasn't an overly productive break for me.” These statements were further expressed by Greg Quilty another second-year student: “I never did a whole lot over the break. It wasn't all that productive for me. I went downtown a few times, had some people into my house. That's about it.”

This is university and it would be naive to think that some students don't spend a good deal of their time off partying. Jordan Howard, a second-year student, said that over the break “I had a couple of parties. One with a band and one with just music. Witnessed my friend getting a knife pulled on him. My girlfriend's car got stolen and my friend was drugged at a bar on George Street. Life in downtown St. John's … gotta love it.”

Others take fall semester break for what it literally states; a break. Laura-Beth Gray, a second year bachelor of music (voice major) agreed, saying “Over the break I slept in everyday. I just relaxed and really didn't get everything I wanted to accomplish done because I really did need a break from school. At this point in the term it is so hard to stay motivated. Everything seems to be piling up.”

The break didn't offer a whole lot of sleeping in time for me. I was on campus from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on both Tuesday and Wednesday chairing for the High School Model United Nations. There was one thing that stuck me though during the closing General Assembly (for non-UN geeks that means when all the resolutions are voted on and you find out if your work has become a policy of the UN), a student from Holy Heart turned around and said to me “You're here during your midterm break? I came here to get out of school.”

I looked around at the other members of the United Nations Society and we all looked back at her puzzled somewhat by what she had said. Why were we here when we could be home studying or lazing around? I wanted to reply “Because it is funny to hear what people think the United Nations really is,” but the truth was I was there because it was a break and being on campus didn't mean that I wasn't taking a break. The feeling that you experience in high school, where it is the physical building you need a break from isn't quite the case in university, it is the actual work that exhausts you.

Next time around everyone should take the time to enjoy their break but also remember that exams loom in the not to distant future and the whole reason we are here (or at least why I am here) is to learn.