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COLUMN: Lights and the Promise of Home

The Heart of the City

Heights Editor

Published: Thursday, December 12, 2013

Updated: Thursday, December 12, 2013 03:12

Confession: I have not been into the city in weeks. Among swallowing Spanish vocab words, wading through Eliot, and spooning my Shakespeare notes, there has been no time to slip away to visit Boston.

Lately, I’ve been sitting on the fifth floor of O’Neill (one of the most underrated studying spots on campus, in my opinion) facing the windows. From here, you can see the spire of the Prudential Center sticking up far over the trees, in stark contrast with the gray December sky.

Most of the year, gazing at the Pru gives me great comfort while studying. It is a simple reminder that I am blessed enough to go to a school that, despite the different zip codes, is deeply linked to the city I love. Most of the time, seeing the skyline from the library reminds me how close Boston and Boston College really are.

Lately though, it has been a reminder of how far I really am. Studying and gazing at Boston has made me feel restless, trapped. Christmas in the city is one of the best times of year to be a part of the Boston community, but instead we are shackled to our campus by the demands of our courses.

A few weeks ago, my history class was given a pretty typical assignment to go to the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) and compare two objects. Nothing too difficult, and I was excited to have the chance to get off campus. However, as the Green Line approached Northeastern, I began to get stressed. Every fiber of my student being yelled at me, “What are you doing? You do not have the time to being gallivanting through the city, drinking Starbucks and gazing at Christmas lights. There are poems that need to be interpreted, flashcards that need to be made.”
I am embarrassed to admit I charged through the American Wing in the MFA like a mad person. I found two objects, took a few notes and charged out, noting a few members of my 300-person lecture doing the same thing.

This, of course, was not what my professor had intended at all. I’m sure if anything, his image of his students was closer to the art-experiencing, coffee-drinking, wonder-filled excursion I initially had planned for myself. Instead, I wound up blowing past Monets because of this pressure to return to the library.

On the T home I began to ponder—if finals are supposed to be the culmination of our academic experience, how truly wrong is this? Many of us chose to attend BC for the education of the whole person and the link to a city. But these high ideals are abandoned the moment final grades are on the line.

There is no answer for this issue, nor do I think it is actually reasonable to fault a university for making its students take finals. It is just the reality of what we do. But a simple final assignment to visit the MFA made me wish that this was not the case.

Consider using the city to its full advantage during finals, even though it may seem difficult. Sacrifice the hour of transportation for the sanity you will gain from the change in scenery. Camp out in the Boston Public Library or a small cafe on Newbury Street. Marvel for a moment at the fact that the thousands of other students that share this city are doing the same exact thing right now. Catch eyes with another sweatpants-clad student preparing for the storm of finals that is about to hit and be in solidarity for a moment.

More importantly, seeing real people (by that I mean non-students) bustle up the slick sidewalks in preparation for the holidays reminds you there is life beyond finals. These are just assignments, just due dates, just grades. You have twinkle lights and the promise of home waiting for you at the end of this tunnel.


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