As you are reading this, thousands of students will be settling back into the routine of school after a few, blissful weeks of reprieve. Perhaps you were able to witness the strange sight that is a student on break; perhaps you are that student, now waving a resigned goodbye to your free time. Either way, I hope you can appreciate this student-approved list of the 6 stages of winter break.
1. Liberation: the weekend after finals.
Even if finals week itself isn't difficult (in my experience, the week before is killer), getting through it always feels like a huge achievement. It's finality makes even the smallest task feel momentous. By Dead Day most students are running on gas fumes, relying on coffee and late night Shari's runs to make it through. But nothing quite beats that Saturday morning, waking up with the knowledge that you have absolutely no deadlines, papers, tests, online assignments, or weekly readings due. If you're lucky, you can leave campus and physically say goodbye to the semester.
2. Hibernation: the first week of break.
After using up every last ounce of energy to finish the semester, a few days of good sleep simply isn't enough. For the next week, every spare ounce of time goes to sleeping, resting, and relieving the tension that builds up over 15 weeks of constant tasks. Some students have jobs over break that prevent them from really getting into hibernation, but the mindset still applies.
3. Socialization: Christmas time.
Even the introverts can start to enjoy people again after Hibernation is over. Many students don't see their families during the semester, and Christmas is a great time to catch back up with everyone and see what all your relatives are up to. This is also the time in break where being away from all your college friends starts to feel strange, and you start looking to fill that void until you can see them again.
4. Preoccupation: when free time activities become real again.
Okay, so maybe not everyone is a book nerd like me. Still, after resting up and enjoying the holidays, there is an incredible moment where every student realizes they can actually do things for fun (!!) again. Whatever your interests are, the free time of break allows actual space to remember what you do outside of studying.
5. Stagnation: when break starts to feel a little too long.
Ok, let's be honest: most of us students start to get bored without school. Even though it can be stressful and overwhelming, there is something enjoyable about testing your own limits and becoming more skillful. College is also far more than just classes: there are always activities and events happening, and it is the best time in life to make long-lasting, meaningful friendships. While breaks are necessary and helpful, I start to get eager about going back by the week before classes.
6. Realization: the weekend before classes start.
Somehow, the first day of spring semester inevitably ends with me realizing I did absolutely nothing to prepare: I forget to buy textbooks, I'm all out of functional pens, and I can never remember where I put my ID card. Luckily, Amazon Prime has made the world a better place for procrastinators, and most of these problems are resolved by Wednesday. Still, recommitting to another 15 weeks of work is often a slow, painful process. Luckily college includes a built-in support group of friends who can commiserate with each other. By week two, the biggest shock of the semester is over.
The bonus stage: realizing this is your last semester of college.
Part of my experience this break has been accepting this as my final semester of undergrad. Sure, graduate school is on the horizon; but there is something special about college and I know I will be leaving that behind. At this point, some people have senioritis and cannot wait to leave; I'm not one of those people. George Fox has been a home for me, and I am a better person for having been here. I know this entire semester will be a series of "lasts:" last big paper, last study group, last final. I know it is time to move on, but I certainly won't be rushing through this spring semester.