During the winter term of first year, I stayed at my residence on campus for reading week. There was nothing wrong about this except…I felt very depressed. I still don’t know the exact cause. I vividly remember that I was not refreshed by the end of reading week. I stayed on campus, I did not go out to have fun and I procrastinated. My mental health went downhill afterwards for the rest of the term. Since this experience I’ve learned the best way for me to spend reading week is to physically remove myself from where I usually spend my time.
This reading week, I had the privilege to spend my time in Europe, specifically in London and Paris. I reunited with friends who attend other universities such as Kings College London and Oxford University. Within the limited time of reading week, I’ve been to so many fantastic places, seen cool things, ate good food, and had the chance to spend time with friends. These are all things that U of T students don’t have much time for during the busy semester. Surprisingly, I simultaneously managed to complete some work. I used travel-time on the airplane to review class slides and studied in cool cafes or libraries (such as the British Library).
Before the trip, I was feeling the winter blues. I was quite sad and on the verge of losing motivation, but because I had planned the trip already (and everything was ready to go), my motivation and self-belief to study for midterms was recharged. I still feel the restorative benefits of the trip. I am now able to see my life at school from a different point of view. For example, I loved Europe but since everything was new and unfamiliar to me, I realized that I felt comfortable and safe in Toronto and at school. Most importantly, I feel very refreshed because I took the time to have fun, make memories, and take care of myself.
If you can, I highly recommend that you go somewhere new during reading week, especially if you are feeling down. It doesn’t have to mean going to Europe. Some ways to do this are by participating in cool events, going to restaurants you’ve never been before, and catching up with family and friends. Take time to take care of yourself by doing things like shopping (or even window shopping), getting a hair cut, baking, cooking, reading a book…. there are so many options!
Yes, during reading week, it’s definitely important to do some work. However, having fun and making memories to remember as a student are important as well!