Surprise, surprise: a lack of fun causes stress

Iván Merker 19 January 2018

News broke that the university found out that ‘quiet periods’ cause stress. Well, we are all surprised. No one could have told. How can it be stressing that we are expected to lock up in our rooms/the libraries for a month or two before exams?

Quiet periods have a very benevolent premise: colleges should allow students to have an undisturbed working environment especially during exam term. No one can concentrate with a large group of tourists below their window or a noisy college bar next to their rooms.

However, it isn’t surprising that many feel worse due to this system.

For a start, people have different needs in studying. I have a friend who managed to get a 2.1 with hardly any studying. He may be an extreme, but depending on your course and many personal factors, you may need more or less time to study. Some people also finish earlier than others.

If you have to live in an environment which is about studying all the time you will feel guilty if you don’t study that much. If you continue studying less, this will make you feel anxious about your exams. Surely, some of these people should study more, but some have to face unnecessary stress.

And there are those who need some non-study related impulse during studying in order to be less frustrated. Your college emptying out may strip you from that, too.

But even if you have to study all the time, having some time off will undoubtedly make your life less stressful, even if that would make you academically less successful. It is important that colleges help those who want to study in quiet the right environment. But it is equally important that those who need an evening off can go to the college bar.

We are adults, after all, who try to balance academic success, having fun and extracurricular activities on a regular basis. Cambridge colleges push you to value academic success, but they seem to forget that it should be you who should find the right balance, and in my experience exams not taken seriously enough is a rare phenomenon in Cambridge. (My friend is pretty much the exception.) Pushing us to study more is quite paternalistic.

This is especially so because too much stress and fragile mental health can in the long run stop you from performing well in the exams: for example, many people are blocked if under too much stress. Again, this depends on your personality: I personally perform no worse or even better under stress in written, but not in spoken exams. But even more importantly, I try to keep stress to the exam halls, not to libraries because long-term stress is damaging.

The colleges should revise their policies in order to reduce stress significantly over Easter Term. And this means to leave students to decide their own revision methods.