All of a sudden it’s December; Thanksgiving break is over and there’s less than three weeks left of the semester, including finals. Obviously, the semester’s going by quickly, and although part of me feels like I only just moved into my dorm yesterday, I was immensely grateful for the break from routine Thanksgiving provided.
I was also extremely excited to see my friends from high school. I knew everyone would be busy, especially with us all only being home for a week at the most. But, even if we didn’t manage to plan an all-out Friendsgiving dinner complete with champagne, candles and a black-tie dress code, I still wanted to see them all. And I did get to see my friends, which is something I am very thankful for. With that being said, imagine my dismay when so many of them had to delay hangouts or show up late because they had school assignments due over the break.
I love an 11:59 p.m. deadline as much as the next guy, mainly because it gives you the entire day to complete something, but there shouldn’t be such deadlines over a designated break. This forces young adults to accept work which infringes upon the boundary between work and home as the norm. Continuing the work day at home becomes expected, which shouldn’t be the case. I personally didn’t have any exact deadlines over the University of Connecticut’s fall break, and I found this to be shocking. After spending so many years in the American educational system, assigned work over breaks has become commonplace in my life. Especially being a sophomore in college, already beginning the coursework which will eventually define my degree, a week without a deadline felt like a miracle. The surprise I felt over a lack of homework is sad, to say the least.
It’s no secret homework is an integral part of schooling in America, despite the word itself being a complete contradiction. The saying “don’t take your work home with you” loses all meaning when we’re taught to accept such conditions from an early age. I’m not advocating for the complete abolition of homework as a concept. But breaks should be for relaxation, as their name suggests.
With the increase in discussions regarding mental health. I have also noticed more people talking about burnout and the negative effects it can have on one’s overall health. In college students specifically, burnout can manifest as many symptoms, including decreased motivation, which leads to lower academic performance, a loss of interest in social activities, neglect of friendships and higher levels of anxiety and depression. Not having a real break for an entire semester, without any deadlines, can contribute to these feelings tenfold. This is evident in UConn’s current academic calendar, where the only break in the semester other than Thanksgiving was Labor Day weekend, which occurred arguably before the semester had even truly begun. Thus, at UConn, we went twelve weeks without so much as a pause, which for me was beyond exhausting.
Outside of relaxation, breaks should be for spending time with family and friends. However, one’s ability to do so is greatly inhibited by schoolwork which continues into what should have been designated time off. How can you join family dinner or meet up with friends from other schools when HuskyCT is calling your name, assignment upon assignment begging for your undivided attention? Not to mention, many students do not have home environments away from school which are conducive for learning. Thus, these students end up struggling even more with balancing their work and home lives over breaks.
All in all, I don’t think academics are dire or pressing enough that they cannot be put on pause for even a week. The academic calendar is published before the semester begins, so professors have enough notice to plan curriculum around breaks without forcing it to continue through them. Simply put, putting school on hold for a week would not be the end of the world. Students need a true break sometimes, and we shouldn’t ignore that.