5 Things Learned from Reading Weeks in 4 Years

In my four years at Queen’s I have had different experiences with Reading Week.  As much as we would all like to pretend, Reading Week is shockingly rarely used to catch up on school and would instead be better named ‘Release Work’ because however we spend our time during Reading Week it is a chance for stress to rush from the body as we engage in some recreation activity, be it sleeping, eating, skiing, or visiting family, that lets us escape from the doldrums of school.

However, as diverse as Reading Weeks can be, there are six truths I have learned about them during my time at Queen’s.  And next year, before you commit yourself to that pesky essay for the nine days straight, you should realize…

1)      Reading Week is Extreme

My Reading Week experiences at Queen’s are at the mercy of one giant pendulum of extremes: on the one end you have ‘Brady Bunch Boredom’ and on the other you have ‘Sequel to a John Statham Film.”  In first and second year I spent my Reading Weeks dogsledding in Algonquin Park and watching Avenue Q off-Broadway.  In third and fourth year I divided my time between my bed, the couch, and my office.  By the Tuesday of my first year Reading Week I had sledded over 50km through deep snow where we had to chip through half a foot of ice for fresh water.  This Reading Week it took until Tuesday to wash a load of laundry.

There is no middle ground during Reading Week.  You are either sleeping for sixteen hours a day or on the ski hill for twelve.  You can stay at home and spend $0 or you can fill my Facebook news feed with ‘PUNTA CANNAAA!!!’ to the tune of several hundred dollars.

No matter how you cut it, you will be on one end of the spectrum.  You will spend nine days in sweats watching reruns of Marcia Brady or you will careen down the hills at Whistler wondering if you could star in the new Triple X film.

2)      You Will Get Sick

Ten days before Reading Week you start the countdown.  Deadlines become irrelevant – anything you can push until Reading Week you can.  Schoolwork, calls to your parents, laundry, grocery shopping, filing tax claims, paying parking tickets… everything can wait until the glorious paradise of Reading Week.  The problem is that your body knows this too and it too has been saving up.  All the late night parties, all-nighters, ramen noodles and lack of fruit, all of the bad decisions we make leading up to Reading Week come crashing down upon us in one giant wave of sickness.

Not a year has gone by without a friend of mine having to cancel their Reading Week plans because their borrowed time caught up to them.  First year? Friend on the floor caught the Norwalk virus.  Second year saw a friend catch laryngitis and have to stay home.  Sore throats, chest coughs, headaches, and vomiting… it’s like your body is trying to send you the message that it disapproves of your choices via the flu and Norwalk.

3)      Someone Always Has a Better Reading Week Than You

My second year Reading Week was awesome.  I was just hired to be the 2010-2011 Academic Affairs Commissioner at the CHR party and was on my way to NYC with two of my friends from first year.  None of us had any money and we spent our five days in NYC taking photo souvenirs to mock friends with, trying to see if Harold and Kumar lied to us, and watching America gain false Olympic gold hope over dinner at the ESPN Centre at Times Square.

4)      Campus is Deserted – And Everywhere Else There is Traffic

This is what University Avenue looks like when it is empty (rough approximation).  Very few Queen’s students will see campus this deserted during their time at Queen’s. For nine days the citizens of Kingston are able to catch a glimpse of what life is like without Queen’s students.  It’s bleak, it’s dreary, and there is a lot less Abercrombie and Fitch.  If you go to the cafeterias you feel isolated and alone.  Indeed, the only active spot on campus this Reading Week has been the ARC, the Tim Horton’s and the grocery store.

However, much like the boy wondering where all the Truffula Trees went in the Lorax, one can’t help but wonder where all of our students go. It is no big secret.

5)      You Feel Cheated

There are many things Reading Week will teach you.  It will teach you how to harness seven hungry sled dogs to a flimsy wooden sleigh.  It will teach you that you’re not going to find cold medicine on Family Day.  And it teaches you that you should never take a call when talking to Border Patrol.  But ultimately Reading Week teaches you that getting a week off in the middle of a semester is really unfair.

— wait, WHY?!

To our many dozens of readers, that last line may be shocking. However, when you stop to think about it, you’ll completely agree.  First of all, it’s not really a ‘week’ off.  Or at least, your holiday time is not maximized considering Monday is a statutory holiday in Ontario anyway.  Second of all, around Saturday evening you’re going to realize that all of those chores you said you would do – laundry, dishes, shower etc. – are still incomplete.  Or you see the week’s tab (or worse, your parents do).

But the worst, the absolute worst feeling of being cheated is when your Monday alarm rings.  You wake up groggy and bewildered.  You stagger out of bed, get halfway to the shower and you realize…

Your essay is still due.  F–

Kieran Slobodin
Vice-President, University Affairs (2011-12)


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