Athens, OH 3 April 2017 –
One of the most important things anyone will ever learn in college—besides how many credit hours is too many credit hours—is what their very own study aesthetic is. I’m going to refer to it as an “aesthetic” for two reasons. The first being that “aesthetic” is my favorite word of all time. The second being that I’ve found that the only way to really and truly convince myself to do something I see as unpleasant is to turn it into something unnecessarily dramatic (or as the kids call it, “extra”).
Your very own study aesthetic can say a lot about you, and can be one of the most fun self-discoveries you’ll have in these four years. However, it can also be horribly stressful because you won’t even notice that you’re searching for it. You’ll just know that something you’re doing isn’t working, and it just doesn’t feel right.
My entire freshman year, I tried so hard to be a library studier—on the top floor of Alden, surrounded by bookshelves filled with information you can easily find with one simple Google search. It felt…forced. It felt fake. I wasn’t learning anything that I hadn’t learned in class or recitation, so I found myself getting frustrated when I wasn’t making any progress.
My sophomore year, I tried to be a dorm studier. This was easier in my quiet sophomore dorm than in my rowdy freshman dorm, so I thought I was making progress in my setup. But there was still something missing.
My junior year, I became a coffeehouse studier. It was like the clouds parted and the choirs started singing! Not really, because that would be horribly distracting. I realized that it wasn’t just a room with light background noise that I needed, it was an entire environment. An environment with a history.
Coffeehouses have been the place of academic, social, and intellectual interaction since their inception. In the beginning, they were a place where natural and social scientists of all economic classes could meet to discuss ideas. They were where pivotal friendships such as that of Edmond Halley and Isaac Newton were formed. I learned that for me, I need that history of innovation to work well. I need the feeling of coziness to surround me while I work on a foundations engineering project, or else I won’t be productive. Even as I’m writing this, I’m sitting on the second floor of Donkey Coffee—a local coffeehouse—with a tall glass of lavender/peppermint soda.
Now, Donkey Coffee may not be the best place for everyone. Many engineering students that I’ve met feel they absolutely cannot work outside of the ARC (Academic and Research Center), and some have said that they can’t study anywhere other than one specific study room in the library.
So, as you go on your journey through college looking for your productivity sweet-spot, remember that no two people are alike. And remember that the location is not the only variable you need to consider. You may need a specific drink, a specific type of music, a certain feeling to the place you’re about to settle into. You may do your best work in the gym, surrounded by the smell of sweat and the clink of weights returning to their shelves. You may work best in a restaurant, with bustling waitstaff bringing plates of fries to the table next to you. All I can say is that you’re going to feel so much better when you finally find the setting that works for you.