Post by Matt Barrett
Graduate Assistant for Communications
While it may sound surprising, I don’t always know what to write about in my weekly blogs—with so many events around campus, it’s often difficult to come up with one concrete idea. But I think it’s safe to say that this week, I should write about finals. I’ve seen all of your faces. And the panic is palpable. On Monday, I walked through the Jackson Library and could barely move. It felt like grand central station around the printing stations, and it took me five—no, not five, ten, no, not ten, fifteen—minutes to find a computer in the super lab. We’re all figuring out how to survive this week, and that’s why I’m writing this blog. So all of these thoughts are for you.
If you try to access my blogs from http://www.uncg.edu/ you have to click on the Current Students link, followed by The Graduate School and then look near the bottom of the page. But this blog isn’t just for grad students. If you’re an undergraduate—which may be zero of you, or one—I know what you’re going through, from personal experience. Finals week has always been the most stressful time of year. I like to think of it as an underwater breath-holding competition: just as your mind starts playing tricks on you and you think you’ll die if you hold out any longer, you suddenly get to emerge and take a big breath of fresh air. Maybe that’s not the best analogy, but it seemed appropriate in my head. At the end of our finals, there’s a long winter break awaiting us. Essentially, that’s what’s getting me through this week: the fact that graduate school makes me feel (in certain ways) like an undergrad again.
After graduating from Gettysburg College, I worked two jobs that gave me one week off per year. In my interviews for both jobs, I asked how much vacation time I would receive—and while I didn’t get the answer I wanted, I had to take the jobs anyway. I sacrificed my vacation time for the possibility of getting a bi-monthly paycheck; and while my bank account was happy, the amount of time I got to spend with my family became limited. It’s for this reason that I don’t mind final weeks: at the end of it, we all get to go home.
But this doesn’t mean I’m ready to leave UNCG. Even as I write this, it’s strange to think I’ll be so far from campus, especially for an entire month. For me, home is just outside of Philadelphia, which means I’ll be approximately 475 miles from the Moore Humanities and Research Administration building (according to Google maps, if you take I-495 around DC). The MHRA is where all of my classes are held and has become my graduate school home throughout the semester. While I’m excited that finals will soon be over, I understand that I’m now a quarter of my way through graduate school. If time continues to go by this quickly, I might be graduating next week.
As I approach my finals, I truly appreciate the moments that await us. Since we’re recently off of Thanksgiving break, the idea of being home is fresh in my mind. For instance, the day after Thanksgiving, my sister had me set up the VHS player in order to watch Home Alone 2. The top of the VHS was caked in dust, and I’m fairly certain it was made in the eighteenth century. While it took me over an hour to figure out how a VHS player can be utilized in 2013, I eventually got it work, and Macaulay Culkin immediately reminded my sister and me of our childhood. As I approach this finals week, I think of moments like these, when I’m able to sit by the fire with my family and watch corny movies.
While UNCG may not advertise our vacation time on its website, it’s nice to think of the upcoming breaks as something we’re working toward. I know that once finals are over, I will start planning out next semester. Perhaps that’s what this crazy week really offers: an appreciation of what comes next. Although I still have a few more nights of hard work ahead of me, I keep reminding myself of why I’m here and of the rewards that soon await me. I feel like I’ve written all of my blogs as if I’m trying to become a motivational speaker, so I guess I won’t stop now. If you think like me and imagine finals week as one long underwater breath-holding competition, just keep pushing yourself a little bit more. Pretty soon we’ll all be able to take that one big sigh of relief.