The month of November entails one main thing for most college students: Thanksgiving break. It’s a (semi) wonderful time for many UConn students; we get the whole week off, the only break since the long weekend afforded to us with Labor Day. One week of no new assignments being given, no extracurricular obligations and, for most of us, a time spent in the midst of friends and family at home. In essence, it should be a vacation for our minds, if not our bodies, when we can regroup, destress and prepare ourselves for the rest of the short year; we should be taking a rest for a short period of time as defined Merriam-Webster.
While the idea behind Thanksgiving break appears to be remedial in nature — we all probably think of gorging on home-cooked meals on Thanksgiving Day as well an indulging in some well-needed retail therapy — I cannot help but reflect on its unfortunate timing in the context of the fall semester. Before we students can even imagine the idea of marginally relaxing for a short period of time, professors are assigning final projects, homework and presentations to be due in the weeks we get back, either because they see the break as a time to do more work or because they could not fit the assignment anywhere else in the semester. Either way, any sort of thoughts of disengagement from the material we have been faced with for over 12 weeks straight remains where it can never really leave: The imagination.
In addition to studying for last-minute exams and completing homework assignments during a period meant for rejuvenation, students are also faced with the question of finals and how they will prepare to remember a semester’s worth of information for one two-hour block. This is a monumental task that should be considered with a clear, alert mind after a short respite from school, but students are still being stressed out over the assignments due for the weeks before finals. And when students are not really being afforded a break from their main jobs as students, they — along with every other person in the world with responsibilities — experience burnout: “An extended period of time where someone experiences exhaustion and a lack of interest in things, resulting in a decline of their job performance.”
Twelve weeks of academically grueling work along with extracurricular responsibilities can, in my humble opinion, be defined as an extended period of time. So when Thanksgiving break rolls around, all students really want is to take a deep breath and take it easy; but as demonstrated before, they cannot, and they keep going without any motivation for the end of the year. What is the point of having a break near the end of the semester when it is not really serving its purpose?
For these reasons, I propose that a fall break would serve a greater purpose than a Thanksgiving break. A fall break would take place in the middle of the fall semester, mirroring the spring semester, and it would offer that well-deserved break that students require to avoid burnout. Keeping professors from assigning homework over any break is impossible, but at least students will not have to worry about finals, which usually constitute a major portion of the final grade for a course, on top of their other coursework. After midterms are over, students are free to return to school with an energized vigor to complete the second half of the semester on a high note. The spring semester utilizes this idea of a break in the middle of the semester, which leads to increased levels of happiness and lesser sick days. We should try to keep our students happy in the fall as well.
While people can argue that Thanksgiving break means that it is nearly time for the semester to end (which it does), the reality is that students are just so exhausted and mentally drained by this time. And yes, a fall break would either mean removing Thanksgiving entirely in favor of a fall break or removing Labor Day weekend to keep both a fall break and an extended Thanksgiving weekend. This could sound preposterous to many people, but if we want to avoid burnout, I’m sure these are sacrifices many students are willing to make.
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Lavanya Sambaraju is a contributor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.