Section: Uncategorized

Beating back winter boredom

Being home for break always seems ideal when I’m not at home. More precisely, staying in bed, watching Netflix and having access to a car seems awesome when I’m at school and it’s 3 a.m. and I’m trying to find change to buy a fourth bag of Ruffles from the vending machine to help me finish writing my paper before dawn.

Yet when things begin to grind to a slow, excruciatingly boring halt at home over break, and I notice all I have to look forward to for the week are a lunch date on Tuesday, a doctor’s appointment Wednesday afternoon and a vague personal promise to buy more bras before Friday, I realize that I actually miss being productive and having stress to drive me forward.

Many of my friends and relatives don’t have this problem; some of them head back to the same businesses they worked at over the summer, some decide to go on life-changing, Don Quixote-esque drunken romps across Europe — and some, more and more frequently, remain on their schools’ campuses to continue taking classes.

My cousin left home before the new year for Colby College’s “Jan Plan,” a program offered over the college’s winter break for students to conduct research or an independent study, pursue internships in fields of their interests or take “non-traditional,” quirky courses that would not usually be offered during the fall or spring semesters. Unlike the general curriculum of the fall and spring semesters, these Jan Plan experiences “are especially concerned with strengthening capacities for innovative thinking, independent work, creativity, intellectual exploration and experimentation,” according to Colby’s website.

Oberlin’s four-week winter term focuses more exclusively on enabling students, as its website says, to “discover the value of self-education” through group projects and independent studies, both on campus and abroad. Unlike other schools with similar winter programs, Oberlin actually requires that its students complete at least three Winter Term projects prior to graduation.

This seems like a big miss on Kenyon’s part. Don’t get me wrong ­—  a whole month is pretty generous for a break, and I wouldn’t necessarily want the pressure that comes with designing and completing an entire project for course credit in addition to two already-stressful semesters, but I do sometimes wish Kenyon provided such an opportunity to use my time more productively. I have a friend at the University of Delaware who stayed on campus over break to take calculus —  a class required for his major, and which he knew would have been a struggle alongside four other classes, extracurricular obligations and a social life. Having the opportunity to take a course over Kenyon’s winter break could similarly ease the stress to which students here are prone: We could take classes we were blocked out of during registration or especially difficult courses that would be less stressful on a quieter campus and without the accompanying semester load, or complete independent studies, similar to what the Kenyon Summer Scholars do.

Such a program would certainly incur additional tuition costs as well as require the availability and willingness of faculty members to teach, but there are still plenty of valid reasons why Kenyon should consider offering this type of winter programming to students, especially when so many other institutions of similar caliber have  been doing so for years.

Amy Schatz ’17 is an English major from West Hartford, Conn. Contact her at schatza@kenyon.edu.

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