For me, the spring semester always presents more challenges than the fall. The warm weather and prospect of summer always induce a lazy attitude toward school work, but I’ve come up with a few different strategies over my three years at the College of William and Mary which can help cure this lull in academic enthusiasm.
My first piece of advice is obvious, but I should mention it anyway: Take a few moments to enjoy yourself and the beauty of your surroundings. Lie out on the Sunken Garden in the afternoon instead of retreating to the harshly-lit library or your over-crowded dorm room. Walk in Colonial Williamsburg before you start your day. Catch up with friends on the terrace or at the Daily Grind. Basically, what I’m trying to say is that you need to have fun once in a while, instead of feeling guilty because you’re not dazzling the world with your super-human productivity.
Allowing yourself to take a day off to enjoy the great outdoors will help your mood immensely and give you the energy to finish the semester strong. Williamsburg has a great number of places to “get out there,” Lake Matoaka being the most obvious place to start. Miles of trails run around the lake, and can be accessed by Dupont, behind Botetourt and on Compton Road past the Campus Recreation Center. You can also rent canoes on various days throughout the week. Trust me, I can think of few activities more therapeutic than gently paddling across a calm lake.
If you or a friend has a car, use it to spend a day at Yorktown or Jamestown beach. Both have sandy beaches to relax in the sun, although the water might not be warm enough to swim in for several more months. If you demand a more serious beach experience you can get to Virginia Beach in less than an hour.
If biking’s your thing, the Virginia Capital Trail near the Jamestown Settlement and Waller Mill Park offer great flat terrain for leisurely rides. The Colonial Parkway also makes for a wonderful bike route. Up for a challenge? Cycle out to the historic Jamestown Island; it might take a while but it makes for a very rewarding experience.
The College and the Williamsburg area can feel claustrophobic sometimes, particularly during the cold winter months, so taking a day or overnight trip might also prove worthwhile. After all, the fall semester boasts two breaks, whereas the spring only has one with two long stretches of school in between.
In just an hour you can get to downtown Richmond, which has a huge number of sights to see including the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the James River and Carytown — a fabulous shopping district filled with restaurants, bookstores and thrift shops.
If you really crave an escape, rent some camping gear from the Rec and retreat to the mountains. You can reach some great campsites and trails around Charlottesville in about three hours. It might also prove prudent to simply go home for the weekend; you can rest up, get work done in a place with minimal distractions and let your parents take you to the grocery store or do your laundry.
I also suggest lowering the expectations you have for your grades by a marginal amount. This may be hard to swallow for many people who attend the College, myself included, but it seems totally normal to suffer from a burnout at the end of an academic year. There is a limited number of truly well-written and well-thought-out papers you can write, or ideas and concepts to understand, in one semester. It doesn’t help that absolutely everything seems to be due on the same day. Still, don’t compromise your standards and settle for low-quality work; just acknowledge that a grade that’s a bit shy of perfect won’t ruin your entire future.
As a final word of advice, I remind everyone to try to lighten up. It’s understandable that persistently massive piles of schoolwork and strings of sleepless nights can totally get you down, but having a good attitude can work wonders. Oh, yeah, and don’t forget to have a great spring Blowout.
Zach Hardy is a Confusion Corner columnist who will most likely be found walking through Colonial Williamsburg, enjoying the great outdoors.