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Give us a break, would ya?

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Specifically, a fall semester reading break

Well folks, we’re nearing the end of another fall semester. It’s been a good run, I’ve had a pretty great time, but man, do I ever feel more exhausted than usual. Perhaps it’s from the lack of sleep I’ve been getting, or maybe it’s the backlash from taking 16 credits; but that’s not really anything too out-of-the-ordinary. No, it must be the result of something else.

It must be from the lack of a fall reading break.

Honestly, if there’s any semester that needs a reading break, it’s the fall. (Not that the winter doesn’t; please, please, don’t think that’s what I’m implying.) The fall semester welcomes the greatest number of new students to UFV compared to any other semester, and often, the first semester can be the most difficult for new students to adjust to. Adding a fall reading break would give new students a chance to catch their breath, ease into their transition to UFV, and catch up on homework.

Of course, a fall break would be valuable for returning students, too. This semester, I don’t think I’ve felt calm for more than a day or so, and I would’ve given an arm and a leg to have had a week off sometime in October. (Okay, maybe just a leg. I would’ve wanted to keep both arms in order to efficiently type up some papers during this hypothetical reading break.)

UFV isn’t the only school who structures their semesters like this; other Canadian universities like Simon Fraser University, the University of British Columbia, and Kwantlen Polytechnic University don’t get a fall break either. However, schools like the University of Saskatchewan, the University of Ottawa, and Western University do.

A week off would grant the opportunity to work on existing homework, while not having to worry about receiving any more until a week later. And, when all the catching up is done, we could do things that regular school weeks don’t generally allow time for; like relaxing, hanging out with friends, or maybe even going on a short trip somewhere.

Now, if we were to get a reading break during the fall, the break between the end of the fall semester and the beginning of the winter would have to be shorter as a result, but I think it would be worth it. Working and learning non-stop every single week without a significant break is tiring, and giving students a bit of time off in the middle would help relieve a lot of stress.

A recent study from McMaster University measured how the fall break affects stress levels and mental health of undergraduate students. They found that “69.1% of respondents indicated that the fall break decreased their stress,” and that “53.6% of respondents judged that the fall break improved their academic performance relative to the previous fall semester, while only 9.8% judged that it decreased their academic performance.” I don’t know about you, but these results sound pretty promising to me.

Remember last winter, when “snowmageddon” hit, and UFV was closed for most of the week prior to reading break? Yeah, double-reading break was the bomb. I got to catch up on studying, write a couple of papers, write some poems, and play a generous amount of Pokémon Moon, all while laying in bed for days on end. When reading break was over, I came back to school feeling a lot more calm, and more importantly, well-rested and prepared enough to absorb new lecture material. In previous years (when snow wasn’t a problem), the regular reading break period has always made me feel just as relaxed as that one did. I don’t think I’ve ever felt that calm at any point during the fall or summer semesters.

Adding a mid-semester break to the fall term would make UFV even more appealing to those trying to decide which university they should attend. And, for those of us already attending UFV, it would make the semester feel a lot less overwhelming.

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