FINALS WEEK— where the most wonderful time of the year turns into the most stressful time of the year. A time where students across the country are up to their ears in work and sleep and sanity are at all time lows. While Middlebury is certainly no exception to this rule, it has been my experience that although stress is high during this time, that there is something about the collective culture here that makes everything a little more bearable. Here are some reasons I’ve come up with to explain what that has meant to me:
- Students are not competitive with each other: Contrary to the experience I had in high school, when everyone was competing for the same goal of getting into college, I truly find that while Middlebury students are quite competitive with themselves, we are not competitive with each other. None of my friends or classmates would ever ask me what my GPA was because they genuinely would not care. If someone did ask me about a specific grade, it would probably be because they wanted to see if I did something differently to receive a better or worse grade and not because they wanted to compete with me. I think a lot of this stems from the fact that unlike high school, college students choose a wider variety of paths. I think this is further strengthened at Middlebury because it is a Liberal Arts school where students are much more likely to be taking different types of classes, have different majors, and different aspirations than they would be if you went to a larger university where you were enrolled in a specific school or program.
- Collective Atmosphere: Since there isn’t much competition between students I find that the academic atmosphere is more collective. When you have a lot of work the chances are that others have a lot of work as well, which certainly fosters the “all in this together” atmosphere. This is only strengthened during finals when, due to Middlebury’s physical size, everyone studies in the same places.
- Supportive environment: Being with everyone is in the library with a lot of work strengthens the feeling of our collective identity as Midd kids. This collective identity, coupled with the fact that we aren’t trying to compete with each other, fosters a very supportive environment amongst students. It is very common in times like these to hear exchanges between students where they both talk about their long to do lists and then provide words of encouragement. When you have three papers to write in two days, hearing that someone else has three papers and an exam to complete in the same amount of time is comforting, because, in a strange way, you feel less alone.
Not Competitive–>Collective Atmosphere —> Supportive Environment.
I am certainly not trying to say there isn’t high stress at Middlebury, or, that we all sit around in a circle giving each other back massages and smiling during finals week. I think we all need to try to put less pressure on ourselves as individuals, to try harder to remember the bigger picture, why we are here and why we want to learn in the first place. What I am trying to say, is that in times of high academic stress it has been my experience that the students seem to really come together and support each other. As I go into my seventh finals period as a Middlebury student, I think I have finally realized how positively this supportive environment has effected my academic experience.
Since this year began it hasn’t really hit me that I am a senior in college. When the school year started I pushed away any sadness and anxiety I felt that this is my last year at Middlebury because I kept telling myself that 9 months was a long time and so there was really no use in thinking about it too much. I spent the past two months enjoying the weather (it has truly been the most beautiful fall I have experienced in Vermont), working on my thesis, and pushing off any and all thoughts of job applications and my future. However, now that it is the first week of November and there are officially more leaves on the ground than there are on the trees, the blissful ignorance that I have been enjoying up until this point is no longer a sustainable mindset with which I can operate in.
This past weekend I attended my final Middlebury Panthers Football game as a Midd kidd, I handed in the first section of my History thesis, and I checked an item off my my senior year bucket list, which seems to be growing longer and less doable everyday. This week I will be registering for my last semester of college classes and attending Middlebury’s 200 days party (a party that celebrates the fact that seniors only have 200 days left until graduation.) Pretending I’m not graduating has ceased to be possible, and though I am sad and anxious about life after Middlebury, I still believe it is way to soon to give into those worries. I want to change my attitude and embrace my senior year without only thinking about the fact that it is my last year of college. I want to take advantage of Middlebury and do as much as I can, while acknowledging that my bucket list will never be completed– and that’s okay! Ultimately, I want to try and find the balance between enjoying the next 200 days and living my life here at Middlebury to the fullest, while still being able to reflect on the fact that these are my last 200 days of college and that should be factored into how I approach them.
Wish me luck!