North Campus Residents Take a Breather from Finals

It’s the Tuesday of Weinberg College’s reading week, a time when many Northwestern students huddle in the library to prepare for a gauntlet of final exams, papers and projects. But 560 Lincoln Street Residence Hall’s ground floor is buzzing as students go from table to table, eating healthy study snacks (including fresh fruit, a yogurt bar and individual hummus and almond butter cups), playing games, crafting and winning prizes. The lights are bright, the music is cheery and the atmosphere is all about relaxation. This is how Northwestern students living on campus relieve stress during the busiest time of the quarter.

Organized by Residential Services, the evening event billed as the Finals Prep Carnival came together with help from across the University. Information about academic resources from around Northwestern was made available to students. Residential Life staff planned games and had crafts for students, including painting, making glitter jars, playing board games and even rounds of musical chairs (with some sweet prizes including bakery-fresh cupcakes). Counseling & Psychological Services organized a quiet space while Athletics & Recreation gave seven-minute massages to students who needed to unwind.

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“We want to give students an opportunity to unwind and decompress a bit before finals,” says Residential Academic Initiatives Assistant Director Tim DeBold. “We have fun and relaxing activities, but we also want to reduce anxiety by connecting students with resources that can help them be better prepared for final exams and papers.”

560 Lincoln’s main multi-function space fostered a warm and lively environment, which drew students in from multiple buildings. When McCormick freshman and Sargent Hall resident Brent Claypool needed a break from studying for Engineering Analysis – a notoriously difficult class in the engineering curriculum – he knew just where to go. After some healthy snacks – “a nice little break from dining hall food because I never eat healthy there” – he wrote some holiday cards to friends from home.

“This definitely helped me relieve some stress,” Claypool says. “I’m not looking forward to going back and studying again.”

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Kim Rowghani, a Resident Assistant in Sargent, went to support her fellow RAs who helped organize the event, but she was also able to chat with some of her residents and kick back and relax. After some snacking, Rowghani and two others began a lively game of Settlers of Catan, a welcome diversion from studying. “You can interact and talk with people,” Rowghani says. “Usually you’re alone a lot when you’re studying, so this is a good excuse to be social.”

Students weren’t the only ones who got to connect and interact that evening. Chris Davidson and Jason Kruse from the User Experience department of Northwestern University Libraries brought games and prizes for students. A memory game had students matching DVD and video game titles available in the Mitchell Multimedia Center. Also, appealing to memories of a time in life with no final exams, a custom-made edition of the board game Guess Who? replaced the original cartoon characters with the smiling faces of Northwestern librarians to familiarize students with the staff. As students stopped by for games, the librarians were able to slip a little academic advice into casual conversations.

“Relieving stress from studying often takes more than just putting the books down,” DeBold says. “Lots of studying and school work can’t be done collaboratively, meaning many students spend long hours reading or writing papers alone – so we want to provide opportunities to relieve stress that are also social events.  We know that students can find their own ways to have fun, but being better prepared for finals is another ways to relieve anxiety.”

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With breathtaking views of Lake Michigan and open spaces for relaxing, cooking, and studying, Northwestern’s newest residential building, 560 Lincoln Street Residence Hall is the sleek, modern home of 422 undergraduates. Unlike the stereotypical “dorms” of past generations, 560 Lincoln offers much more than a bed to sleep in at night. The common spaces on each floor encourage community building, and the ground floor’s large multi-use space was designed with both social and academic programming in mind, which made it the perfect venue for a finals prep carnival. According to North Area Residence Director Michelle Hunter, who helped plan and execute the Finals Prep Carnival, “Having these events in the lounges of residential spaces, allows students to come down from their rooms for the event and just grab a snack and go back and study, or hang out longer with their friends.”