Waiting For May flowers

We blinked and all that time was somehow gone. At the end of April, times are hard: students feel buried by final assignments, projects and exams. These April showers are drowning us. Yet, we keep marching, fueled by the promise of May flowers.

With only just over a week left of the spring semester, we don’t know what to make of these final days. The cherry blossoms have come and gone, and so has our academic motivation. The trees are turning green again, full of life. We can almost taste our sweet reward: a relaxing, three-month long summer.

On one hand, we’d like to get lost in the slow going of spring. We’d like this last week to be the cool down to the challenging race we’ve been running since early fall. On the other hand, we know the race isn’t quite over yet: with only a few hundred yards left, everyone is cheering — it is time to sprint to the finish line.

For that reason, LDOC welcomes vigorous celebration at Duke. From pancake art demonstrations to bubble soccer tournaments to live concerts on the main quad, the Duke LDOC (Last Day of Classes) party is an all-day affair.

The biggest event of the year, the LDOC party, brings the Duke student body together like nothing else. Almost all students come out to celebrate. While most students can’t shake the underlying dread that comes with LDOC — the end of classes marking the beginning of finals season — the air is thick with the exhilaration that comes every year with the end of school.

As scary as final exams can be, most U.S. college students will be able to breathe again after the first week of May. However, most Duke students can’t say the same. With Duke culture putting immense pressure on students to get ahead with internships, summer classes and corporate jobs, the expectation is that we have a productive summer. After exams, we’ll turn our key again, feeling like wind-up toys, and dive into coding camps, public policy internships or intensive summer classes. We just can’t get a break.

Burnout is rampant in college students around the U.S. With a recent increasing awareness of students’ mental health issues, a wave of support systems has been implemented in most campuses. Duke is no exception: we have more resources than ever before. However, we still find ourselves unhappy, strained and overwhelmed.

Perhaps, we need something simpler: the permission to take a break.

One might argue that if students decide to have a busy summer, then that’s their decision. If they don’t need a pause, good for them. Let them plough on. But the reality is that some students apply to monotonous corporate jobs and tedious internships not because they want to, but because they’ll feel disadvantaged if they don’t. The competition is bloodthirsty. There’s no catching up once you get left behind.

Our choice is then between having a long, pleasant, relaxing summer or giving up our time to some hyper-productive project that will fluff our resume. For international students, this could mean not seeing their parents and friends until mid-August. For local students, this might just mean having a 9-to-5 dull office job distantly related to their field — and giving up being a camp counselor at the summer camp they’ve been going to since childhood.

It’s not fair to say that students should never look for an internship to enrich their experience, nor that it’s useless to get ahead with summer credits. But every decision has an opportunity cost. If that political science course in D.C. will knock two months off your summer, then you should probably reconsider taking it.

At least, ask yourself if you’ll be ready to jump back in the race come September.

Now, we find ourselves confronted by the final stretch of the semester and all the worries it brings. Will I do well on my finals? Will I get that internship I applied for? Whether or not we are ready, summer is here. Let us at least be assured by the fact that after our toil and labor, will come, if not a well-deserved break, immense satisfaction. Stay strong, as you sit through the final April showers. The May flowers will be blooming soon.

Anna Garziera is a Trinity first-year. Her column typically runs on alternate Wednesdays.


Share and discuss “Waiting For May flowers” on social media.