Knowledge is power: Investigating some of the best study spots at W&M

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COURTESY PHOTO / SAM SUSLAVICH

The Docks

If you are looking to disconnect for a bit and really focus on your reading or writing, the docks on Lake Matoaka are a promising choice. There are docks behind both the Mason School of Business and the Botetourt Complex. Both areas are roughly equivalent in terms of their appeal as study locations. The docks are nicely shaded, and with a fairly consistent breeze off the lake, the docks tend to be cooler than other areas on campus. As soon as the last of Williamsburg’s summer heat departs, the docks can be comfortable for many hours on end. If you cannot study with other people nearby, this is one of your best options outside of your own dorm room. The ambient noise can be quite soothing and can even be helpful for focusing during long periods of studying. Keep in mind though, that it is highly advisable that you apply bug spray before heading to the docks to ensure that your studying goes uninterrupted. If you do need an internet connection to get your work done, the docks help to blur the line between work and relaxation. Naturally, to get the full effect of the location, it is essential that you dangle your feet into the lake.

Second floor of ISC

The area immediately around the Starbucks inside the Integrated Science Center 3 is frequently packed with students. The well-cushioned, high-backed seats are inviting, and therefore, often occupied. However, if you climb the stairs to the second floor of the ISC, you will find multiple windowed nooks in which to study. All of them feature incredibly comfortable seating with convenient tables and plenty of natural light from the floor-to-ceiling windows. Sadly, these windows also give several of these nooks their most significant flaw: there is often glare and uncomfortable heat from the afternoon sun. While most of the nooks are designed for individual or paired study, some areas feature tables for groups. The stark, contemporary appearance of the ISC is conducive to focusing, but there is a decent amount of foot traffic through the hallways which the areas face. If you find yourself easily distracted from studying by the prospect of socializing, this may not be the spot for you. As far as noise goes, you can talk freely in the ISC, but if you are hoping to enjoy some silence, the nooks closer to the faculty offices will be quieter. You also will not find the area lacking the amenities necessary for multiple hours of studying. There is strong Wi-Fi signal throughout the building — this, coupled with the ISC’s usually being nearly empty before 8 a.m., can make it a rather appealing location for class registration as well. The Starbucks is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday, meaning that if you were so inclined, you could manage to eat all of your meals without leaving the building and have a steady supply of caffeine to boot. If you need a full-service study destination outside of Swem, ISC3 is your best option.

Tyler Garden

Just west of James Blair Hall, in the shadow of two towering redwood trees, you can find the Tyler Garden. Provided that you are able to overcome the temptation to distract yourself with the echo wall, the Tyler Garden can be a wonderful spot to get some work done. The curved brick bench can be quite convenient for group seating, making the space particularly useful for collaborative projects and group study. Unlike most outdoor study locations on campus, the Tyler Garden has a consistent Wi-Fi signal from Blair Hall, making the garden useful no matter what sort of project you are looking to get done. If you pass by the garden and find the stone bench occupied, make sure that you wander past the western wall of the garden to the wooden bench between the two redwoods. Moreover, the Tyler Garden has a fairly central location on campus, making it an excellent place to study briefly in between classes. The area around the garden can get a little noisy when classes are let out on old campus or when tour groups are passing, but the area is quiet for the most part. The Tyler Garden is undoubtedly a superb option for short, relaxed study sessions.

Botetourt Gallery

On the ground floor of Earl Gregg Swem Library, just outside the door to the Reeder Media Center, you can find the Botetourt Gallery, a study area featuring permanent and rotating art displays. The gallery is divided into two levels. The upper level has several high-top tables, while the lower level offers more comfortable lounge seating. Completed in the 1960s, the gallery is a delightful example of the very best mid-century architecture has to offer. This style is accented by the furniture, with Barcelona chairs comprising the majority of the seating in the lower level. The original statue of Norborne Berkeley which once stood in front of the Wren Building stands in the center of the lower level. The Botetourt Gallery provides several advantages to the other study areas in the library. Most importantly, there is usually plenty of available space. Additionally, the library permits talking at an appropriate volume in the gallery, just as is the case on the first floor. Because the gallery is inside Swem, you can expect excellent Wi-Fi signal and air conditioning. Unfortunately, no large tables are present in the gallery, so it is not optimal for group studying. Furthermore, while talking is permitted, the space is usually far quieter than the first floor, and due to its location, the gallery can fill up quickly during exam seasons. If you are looking for a relaxed and atmospheric place to study, the Botetourt Gallery is an excellent choice.