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Friday, March 1, 2024
The Observer

Put the ‘break’ back in fall break

Friday marks the beginning of fall break. Believe it or not, Notre Dame is one of few institutions to have a full week break in the middle of the fall semester. Many other schools only have a long weekend or plug away until Thanksgiving.

Fall break represents different things to different people. For some of us — and most of our editorial board — it may be one of the last breaks we get before we start our jobs. One thing is universal, though: this week will go by fast. Faster than you’d want it to, in all likelihood. That makes it even more important to maximize what you get out of this brief oasis before the semester picks back up again. When fall break concludes, summer will be a distant memory and Halloween will be knocking on the door. Here are a few things to keep in mind over the next 12 days.


Do: Establish a sleep schedule. 

Creating a consistent sleep schedule is often a New Year’s resolution or a resolution at the start of the school year. You tell yourself the importance of it in the days leading up to the start of the year, get eight hours the first few nights. And then, before you know it you’re up at 4 a.m. more times than you can count.

The life of a college student is one full of late nights, early mornings and an endless supply of coffee and energy drinks. But sleep is a truly incredible thing. When done right, it improves physical and mental health, along with many other benefits, but you don’t fully appreciate them until you’re actually benefiting from them.

Yet, sleep isn’t just about quantity — quality matters too. Having a consistent sleep schedule allows the body to maintain its circadian rhythm, which has significant long-term benefits such as a lower chance of heart disease. Whether you’re a night owl or an early riser, having a schedule and sticking to it can maximize your wellness, even if you’re not getting as much total sleep as you’d like.

Don’t: Cram all your sleep into one week.

Yes, you’re technically averaging eight hours of sleep if you sleep 12 hours every day of break and four hours the next week or two. No, that isn’t what you should be doing, nor is it effective! It won’t prevent sleep deprivation when those short nights start to pile up. Instead, it will hurt your long-term memory and can build stress. Sleep is a marathon, not a sprint, so make sure to treat it as such.


Do: What you can. 

Everybody’s capacity to complete school work over break looks different. Some people are staying on campus to work on their senior theses or to catch up on coding projects. Others are traveling and probably won’t touch their work for the entire week. If part of your fall break goals, think about the work when free time arises, but don’t let it hang over your head. Seriously, take this time to relax. 

Don’t: Burn yourself out.

Any senior knows how brutal not having a fall break in 2020 was for the soul. Appreciate the time off, because you’ll burn out without it. Put aside your laptop and your backpack for some mind-numbing television or a rewarding hobby. The tri-campus’s dedication to excellence sometimes means students feel pressured to work during their time off. Don’t spend your entire fall break working, even though we know some of you want to. 


Do: Catch up with old friends and family.

If you’ve chosen to go back home for fall break, take this as an opportunity to catch up with some old friends or family in the area and visit your old hometown haunts. If you’re traveling or on campus, you should still reach out! Call up a friend or send a letter to your long-lost cousin. They probably miss you. 

Don’t: Be afraid to take yourself out on a date.

With all the free time of fall break, you may not know what to do with yourself, and that’s exactly the point. Take some time to reflect on how your semester has gone so far. Take a walk to appreciate some fall foliage or read a really good book. Do something you enjoy that you’ve been putting off — and don’t be afraid to do it alone. 

If on campus 

Do: Explore the South Bend (and Michiana) area! 

Taking advantage of what the South Bend area has to offer during the hustle and bustle of the school year can be hard. However, staying on campus should give you plenty of time to explore. There are plenty of seasonal and year-round activities to partake in and places to visit, from ice skating to apple picking to visiting iconic locations such as the Studebaker Museum and Potawatomi Zoo. Treat yourself to the South Bend Chocolate Company, too.

That being said, the world is your oyster, not just in South Bend! Michigan is about as close as many other activities, and Chicago is a few hours away by car or train. Needless to say, there is a world of things to discover. Now that class and extracurricular schedules aren’t getting in the way, you have no excuse to hold off adventuring.

Don’t: Stay inside.

Given the temperamental fall weather in northern Indiana, it is very easy to stay locked inside your room all of fall break. Resist temptation and go for a walk around St. Joe’s Lake. Better yet, bond with the other people in your hall by carving  jack-o’-lanterns or befriend a member of the South Dining Hall staff.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.