On the Wednesday before Spring Break, I had just come home from a difficult midterm, my brain more or less shriveled up and crusted along the edges. I was staring blankly in avoidance of an essay due the next day. I was also getting over a cold that was going around campus, hacking up a storm as usual. And I realized then that in the three years that I’ve been attending the University, I’ve only taken one real semester off: the summer term of 2013. Every other term wherein classes were being taught, I had been studying something. I realized, too, looking forward into my “week off,” that I would have very little actual free time, as projects, exams, problem sets, papers, short stories and other assignments were going to be due promptly after the break.

I hope I don’t sound like I’m needlessly complaining here. I’ve been apprehensive to write a column about “burning out,” as it seems petty — I just need to suck it up and plow through, right? Everybody else is doing exactly that. I also know asking anything of my professors is inherently self-centered — they, too, face institutional pressures and deadlines, many of which I’m sure are beyond my knowledge. I know that my EECS professors must go through the difficult task of shoving hundreds of students through a standard and strict curriculum; when projects are due or exams are coming up, the GSIs and instructors are right there with us, extending office hours late into the night.

Still, I’ve heard plenty of anecdotal accounts about being sick to the point of hospitalization and facing professors who won’t be more accommodating. I’ve seen a classmate pass out due to lack of sleep. I know of people who have taken exams with high fevers. I’m aware that, for people who struggle with depression or mood disorders, one of the most frustrating experiences is not being able to get work done because you are completely subjected to something — this feeling — that you should be able to suppress but always seems out of reach.

To be a successful college student at any school, one has to have a mental and physical constancy that, as I’ve come to realize, is impossible to attain. I’ve sat in lectures unable to focus on the course material, all the while knowing that if I’m not keeping up now, I will be even more behind than I already am. For the last few weeks, even though I give myself ample hours to sleep, I am still tossing and turning and waking up before my alarm calls me. I end up more tired and groggy than ever. Every bit of time I spend kicking back is laden with guilt. I feel that if I’m not doing something “productive” with my time, I am going to face some irreversible consequence in the near future. I’m always anxious about something, even if I can’t see what it is.

And so, in regards to the Spring Break we just had, I want to say this: this break was added to the calendar because we needed it. In the future, please, if we are expected to keep plowing through when school is in session, then at least let us have this short week to ourselves, with a more reasonable workload: less, not more, than what we are expected to finish during the rest of the semester. Give us this time to recover as much as we can from no sleep, physical illnesses and mental exhaustion. Allow us to spend this time with our family and friends, whom we have probably been neglecting during the semester. This was why Spring Break was originally added to our semester calendar. I hope this is not too much to ask.

Jenny Wang can be reached at wjenny@umich.edu.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.