We deserve free study spaces

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Where you can study this midterm season without spending a dime

If you’re like me (I feel bad for you) studying is a pain. Not because it’s hard to start – even though that’s part of it – but because I need to be in the perfect setting in order for studying to actually happen.

It needs to be quiet, but not too quiet. Not so quiet that the quiet itself feels distracting – that you’re too afraid to move and dare break the silence – but also not so loud that you can’t hear yourself think. It needs to be white noise, but not distracting white noise.

You need to have all your supplies, so home is an obvious choice, but oftentimes that leaves the door open for bringing distractions. For me it means a lot of distractions, because I could be writing that essay, but I also could be watching Friends on Netflix right now. Truthfully, the biggest struggle I face while studying is not becoming horribly distracted while doing so.

This is why being able to go out in public to study was an amazing revelation for me. I can bring only the essentials – only study materials and nothing else – and can force myself to get my work done. More often than not, it’s successful! I’ve been able to finish most of my papers on campus or at a coffee shop rather than in my bedroom at home.

But therein lies the problem: these are public spaces. Often if you want to camp out in a public space for a prolonged period of time, you’ll need to spend some money to be there. In a coffee shop? You need to buy something to eat or drink. In a bar? You’ll need to buy a beer. Want a study room? You’ll need to rent it.

Realistically, a lot of students can’t afford to spend money every time they want to go out somewhere. Needing to purchase a coffee every time you need to complete a reading or write an essay is unrealistic for a lot of students. So, what are the alternatives?

Campus is always a free place to study, and because of its academic nature, it actually puts you in the mood to study too (well, as much as it can). In fact, the American College of Healthcare Sciences based in Portland, Oregon explains that when you’re in a space where you’re normally performing one activity, it’s hard to try to do something else in that space.

When they explain why it’s hard to study in bed, they say: “Think about all the reasons why you love your bed. The comfort of warm covers, soft pillows, and putting off responsibility by pressing ‘Snooze’ . . . [B]ecause your bed will tempt you to stop working and sleep, it’s best you don’t put yourself in a position to fail from the start.”

Following this train of thought, campus is made for schoolwork. It’s where school is. On campus, you go to class, get your readings, write essays, and you are surrounded by others doing the exact same. In this sense, you’re surrounded by the academic world rather than the comfy bedroom you play video games and sleep in.

What I didn’t know about (and therefore didn’t utilize) for far too long were community centres and libraries. I’ve often found that libraries are too quiet for me, and the quiet leads way to my mind wandering off (thanks, brain) so I normally don’t use them. If anything, the only time I’ve ever studied in a library is when I don’t have a choice and need to refer to a book there. Even then, the brain struggle is real.

In a library, instead of being able to write that Hamlet analysis, I’ll be too busy thinking about the dishes I’ll need to do when I get home, what I’m making myself for dinner tomorrow, when I’ll next need to run out and get pet food. But then again, it doesn’t charge me anything to sit there. So, if only I could focus, then my problems would be solved.

Well, fair reader, if you’re like me, I discovered the wonderful world of white noise which makes those free but far too quiet study spaces more manageable. I just pop in some headphones, put on an hour-long YouTube video, and hit the books.

However, I’ve found that community centres completely erase this problem altogether. Often times, there’s enough noise that it isn’t so quiet it’s distracting, but it’s quiet enough that the noise isn’t overwhelming and in the way. A perfect in-between. Of course, the location is also free to sit and work in.

This isn’t to say, of course, that you’re not allowed to still study in your bedroom, or living room, or any room in your house. Of course you are. I write this as both a confession and a plea: a confession that my brain is far too dramatic, and a plea that students need more economically-friendly study spaces.

What I haven’t covered in this article is the cost of travelling to these affordable spaces. While the UPass is still offered as part of tuition by URSU, sometimes taking the bus to get to one of these locations can be complicated or time-consuming. Seeing as the weather in the prairies is brutal for most of the year, it’s also unrealistic to say that students can just walk everywhere they want to go.

Uber has now been introduced to the province, but still, if a student can’t afford to buy a coffee at a coffee shop to study, who’s to say they’ll be able to afford Ubering back and forth to their study location a few times a week?

Offering students more quiet spaces around the city where they can study without spending a dime, I would argue, is an important part of study-culture that is often ignored. As we float through mid-term season, I think this is an aspect of student life worth considering.

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