Ariane de Gennaro

So you’ve overcommitted yourself academically, didn’t you? It was course registration week and you thought, “Hmm, I can totally do four classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. That way I can have Mondays and Wednesdays off. And I’ll get all of my work done then.” Is that working for you? I ask because it’s not working for me. Assuming you, like me, made the admirable yet peculiar decision to stack your entire schedule onto two days, you are probably tired all the time. Welcome to the grind. Do people still say that? Anyway, you’ve come to the right person, because I — a senior with experience in shoving five credits, breakfast, lunch, dinner, homework, leisure time and a whole student job into the cramped space between the hands on a clock — have learned a thing or two from this state of perpetual busyness.

First — and many doctors and mothers may agree — eat breakfast! When you’ve got classes from nine to five, it is important to get something to eat early before you marathon your classes. Empty tummies mean empty minds. Sitting in a seminar on an empty stomach is a disaster. Everyone is talking about Ralph Waldo Emerson, but you’re thinking about fried chicken tenders with a side of ranch. It’s like that cliche hunger joke from the era of Saturday morning cartoons. Tom the cat looks at Jerry the mouse, and his hungry imagination transforms Jerry into a walking slab of salami. Except this time you’re in a seminar, and all of your classmates start to look like fried chicken legs with eyes. Starting your day early with breakfast staves off the cavernous desire to consume your classmates. Breakfast saves lives. It is also tasty. My recommendation? Those cute waffles with the Yale “Y” on them. I have them every morning, and my mind is sharp like a tack.

Second, bring a snack. This is where going to the dining hall for breakfast comes in handy. There’s fruit everywhere! I’ll admit, I don’t like fruit. I think it’s nasty. It all tastes like water to me.  Most people like them. I’m just not “most people.” If you, unlike me, do not have an aversion to bananas and the like, stock up. Bring a little baggy and take an apple to go. Or just toss it in your backpack. You do you. If you’re not in the mood for fruit, there’s always the Bow Wow — a convenience store with all of the comfort of an airport kiosk and the fun camera-friendly aesthetic of a George Orwell novel. Going to the Bow Wow makes me feel like a celebrity. I pretend the security cameras are my paparazzi. I like winking at them as I pay for my things. Act like Paris Hilton when you go to the Bow Wow. Make sure security gets all your angles. The state of campus surveillance aside, marathoning your classes comes with the risk of feeling snackish. So, get snacking!

Third, Commons is your friend. That chicken and rice combo they have is stellar. Commons closes after the normal Yale Dining lunch hours, and they take lunch swipes. If you can get over the fact that Commons is perpetually full and that the portrait of Stephen A. Schwarzman will bore his eyes into the back of your head as you eat, then by all means make going to Commons a regular thing. Just don’t go there all the time. Eating the same few things over and over will get boring very fast. That’s why I only go on the days my schedule blocks out any time for lunch at my residential college dining hall. That way the chicken and rice plate is new to me every time. Commons is also great because it’s the best place to get work done. I understand that doing work in Commons is a lot like doing work in a shopping mall food court, but part of the charm is the fact that Commons is exactly like a food court, just fancier. I like to think of it like Hogwarts with less J.K. Rowling and more fun. It’s also great concentration training, because to work in Commons is to turn your ability to avoid distractions into an Olympic-level sport. Once you learn how to tune out the five hundred other people clamoring around you in Commons, you discover that you can tune out everything.

The most important takeaway from all this is that taking five or more straight hours of classes in one day is not the optimal choice. I don’t recommend it. It’s tiring. Yet, some of us make that choice to stack our schedules out of necessity or just because. Whatever the reason, these marathon days can wear one down quickly. That’s why the best piece of advice, along with everything I discussed before, is to listen to your body and mind. It does not do anyone good to go to class when you do not feel well. Prioritize your wellbeing. It’s this type of thinking that is most likely behind my advice to eat and be well. Food makes everything better. That aside, if you, like me, have days where work starts at nine and ends at five or later, know that I commend you for your tenacity. You are in great company. No matter how hard you work this semester, remember this: don’t work on an empty stomach or a tired mind. Get out there, and get working.  You got this.