The Student Body of UF is currently in the midst of one of the most dangerous and depressing seasons of all. No, not football season— it’s finals season. Walking around campus after returning from Thanksgiving break is like walking through the overworld of a Fallout game, with most of the population of the Gator Nation either dead or dead inside. Like busy ants scurrying around for the sake of their survival, students rush from classes to libraries, cramming for late-semester tests given by evil professors (seemingly in the hopes of lowering their scores on student evaluations) or stressing over the looming threat of finals on the not-distant-enough horizon. As if the threat of GPA homicide was insufficient in putting a damper on students’ moods, a nice additional barrage of cold fronts decide it is time to mosey on down to Gainesville and make us cold-blooded Gators regret every single comment we have made about loathing the heat. Seasonal depression on top of unbearable stress? It is truly the most wonderful time of the year!
A large part of the reason why exam season is so difficult to bear is that it falls in the three week period when students are least engaged. For this, I blame the pilgrims and Pope Gregory XIII for the timing of Thanksgiving and the New Year. Having Thanksgiving break a mere three weeks before winter break leaves students hopelessly disinterested and absent-minded during this crucial last leg of the semester, and while it would probably not have been a conspiracy between the Mayflower passengers and a 16th century Catholic clergyman, it may as well have been because the effect of these two coveted pauses in school are detrimental to countless students.
Thanksgiving break is fun and lighthearted, and many students believe they will use it to “get a head start on studying for finals.” These poor souls are almost exclusively naïve, junior-by-credit freshmen who have yet to experience how much of a hot commodity they become upon returning home after spending a semester on UF President Kent Fuchs’ top 10 public university campus. Old friends miss them, new friends keep their pathetic Snapchat streaks alive, parents and family want to hog them and they really just want to sleep since that isn’t an option in Gainesville. The net effect, though, is a warm feeling of community and belonging. Usually, this begins to manifest on Saturday or Sunday, and then they are thrown back into the frying pan of stress that is finals season at UF.
For most students, winter break exists as that person they have a crush on, sitting right there across the table. They know that they could get to them by throwing in the towel and running into their arms, abandoning all other cares and responsibilities. However, they also know deep down that it won’t help in the long term. They could simply give up and fail their finals, I mean we all at least think of doing so from time to time. However, the only way any of us would actually act on it is if we went to Florida State University, but we aren’t statewide embarrassments, so instead we buckle down and try to study. With both breaks occupying mental space like an ex and future lover though, it is hard to completely focus on the task at hand, as much as we know it is what needs to be done.
These three interbreak weeks are the most difficult ones to deal with all semester. An immense amount of pride and possibly your future are at stake with approaching exams, the weather might seem like a good idea from the vantage point of a Florida summer but the cold feels even better in reality, and the memory of cozy Thanksgiving break combined with the temptation of relaxing winter break deal a constant and devastating blow to the morale and motivation of students. However, we are not defined by how we behave without obstacles, rather we are who we become when our path is lined with obstructions. We are a top ten public university, not only because of the charm and dazzling good looks of Fuchs, but also because we perform well under pressure. So this finals season, keep that in mind, go forward, and at least try to pass your exams.
Kyle Cunningham is a UF history freshman. His columns normally appear on Fridays.