October

How To Make The Most Out of Your Reading Week


Living away from home for the first time was a lot easier than I thought in many ways. I

had almost no trouble adjusting to getting myself out the door, and managing my own

laundry, meals, and exercise. Contrarily, I didn’t expect to miss my family and friends so

much. By the beginning of October, I found myself counting down the days until I’d get

to reconnect with them during reading week.


During my first October reading week, I did almost zero work. I spent all my time

catching up with my friends who went to different universities, visiting my high school,

and hanging out with my family. At the time, I was having a blast with no worries about

reintegrating myself back into the stressful school environment. I knew I needed a break

from doing work and I treated my reading week as time off. When I got back to

McMaster, I was bombarded with 3 midterms in 2 days, which I crammed for because I

neglected my studies during fall break. Because of this, I became even more stressed

than when I left and I found myself feeling even more homesick.


Unlike myself, some of my friends from Mac had spent their entire reading week

studying. Although they were well prepared for their upcoming tests, they were burnt out

because they never took the time to relax and catch up on sleep.


In my opinion, the ideal way to spend your reading week is to balance studying and fun

in order to destress while staying on top of course work.


Here are my 3 tips to make the most out of your reading week:


1. Don’t leave all your school work until reading week. It’s really easy to just say “oh

I don’t want to do this assignment now, I’ll do it on reading week when I have

time”. Well guess what? This is a really dangerous habit to get into because

these assignments will add up and suddenly, you’ll have 25 tasks to get done.

This is an ambitious target and when you get home, you will not want to work on

them. I know it can be difficult to keep working hard when you know you have a

long break, but the more work you get done before the break, the more you’ll be

able to relax.


2. Plan it out. Make a list of all the tasks you have to get done and assign 2-3 to

each day. This way, you get done what you must, but you still have time to

socialize or relax. Try to spread out your work and get-togethers so that you have

a balance of academics and social activities each day. Personally, I refuse to do

school work for the first 2 days of reading week because I know I will burn out.

This allows me to reset my mind and take a break before I get back to work.


3. Take care of yourself. Don’t make reading week all about school; spend time with

the people you love and destress. Catch up on your sleep and get some

exercise. When you get back to Mac, things will pick up right where they left off.

Your body will thank you if you take the time to rejuvenate.


This balance between fun and work can be difficult to maintain, and believe me, I’m still

trying to figure it out. Reading week is ultimately a time for you to find what you need to

have a successful remainder of the semester and school year. Stuff that works for

others may not work for you, but first year is about figuring that out!

Rest up and have a safe reading week!


-Julia Azzi

Honours Medical and Biological Physics II


How I have Spent my Reading Weeks: A Fourth Year’s Perspective


I vividly remember standing in the Whidden bathroom brushing my teeth with a friend

from residence discussing how exhausted we were and how ready we were for reading

week. We had both just finished our first few midterms and September felt like an

absolute whirlwind of a month.


Finally the last week came and went and it was reading week. I was incredibly excited

to go home and see my friends and family. My first challenge was finding my way home.

I’m from Kingston so I had to figure out the Go system and the VIA rail which were both

new to me. Some tips for students who are travelling alone for the first time are to leave

lots of extra time to make all the connections that you might need to make, print out a

copy of your ticket incase they can’t accept a digital one, have enough money on your

presto card and ask for help as needed during your travels.


Once I was home I immediately saw my highschool friends for a birthday celebration. It

was so nice seeing them and hearing about their new experiences at their universities

and colleges. We also took the quintessential holiday break ‘university’ picture of

everyone in their respective post secondary school sweaters. The rest of the week was

spent with family, friends, apple picking, and studying at Queen’s University and the

public library. For probably about half the week I spent the entire day down at Queen’s. I

would drive down with my Mom for work in the morning and back with her in the

evening. Overall, I felt that the week was both productive and restful.


When I got back to Mac I was excited to see my new university friends and chat about

our reading weeks. I found that a lot of people started to be concerned about how little

school work they had done and that they felt more behind and overwhelmed. It is easy

to start to compare yourself to your ‘productive’ friend who got a lot done. Although I

might have been seen as that ‘productive’ friend I still think it is really important to take

time during reading week to relax and do the things you love so that you can keep up

your energy and motivation throughout the semester. Also I would recommend not

setting your expectations too high of what you can get done in the week- you may want

to spend several days just relaxing and watching TV and that is totally okay! Finally

when you get back to school try not to compare what you were able to accomplish to

your friends. You are encouraged to take breaks and remember that you don’t always

have to be productive.


Since my first reading week I have been fortunate to have spent my reading week a few

different ways: I have been camping for the whole week twice in the Grand Canyon with

the McMaster Outdoors Club, I split my one reading week where I went home for

Thanksgiving then led a 4-day 3-night trip in Bruce Peninsula, and finally I have spent

my other reading weeks studying at Queens’ Library catching up on school work and

hanging out with friends and family.


Regardless of how you spend your reading week I hope it is restful and sets you up to

have a successful second half of your first semester at University!


Have a great reading week!


-Alyssa Burrows

Honours Biology & Pharmacology Co-op IV

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