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Spring and summer classes: the good and the bad

By Rachneet Randhawa, June 24 2019—

I fondly remember starting my first-ever semester at the University of Calgary in the spring a handful of years ago. Call me biased, but I think when flower buds are blooming and the campus landscape is teeming with greenness, it’s the best time to be in school. This is my third time taking courses during spring semester so I’ve picked up on tidbits of information that can help you succeed during the intersessions. Let me don a pair of rose-coloured glasses for a brief moment and give you the benefits and drawbacks of the U of C — spring semester edition!

Surprisingly, there can be some drawbacks to going to school in spring. For starters, any foodies out there might be disappointed with their dining options as more outlets have reduced hours or are closed entirely. Although MacHall still has a relatively good selection, the hours of other campus food outlets are limited.

For folks who like to get involved, there is definitely a lack of campus events compared to the regular school year. There are fewer student organizations that are open — let alone active — so it makes sense that there are fewer initiatives to be involved with. Don’t be surprised to see tumbleweeds blowing in your former peer helper office. Another concern raised by students during spring semester is the fact that the GPA doesn’t always count towards academic scholarships or applications for grad school. The admissions process for some programs review your transcript from the last couple of semesters of full-time study, not including spring or summer. So, it’s best to take that fun and random elective that may not align with your academic goals, or if you’re like me, take that excruciatingly tedious theory class for a degree requirement that won’t highly impact future applications. Be sure to check with an advisor if you have any questions about this!

The last drawback to spring semester is also the utmost of eyesores — construction, construction and more construction! Recently, it seems like the campus has become an easy-mode level of Maze Runner because of the continually rerouted pathways. I think it’s safe to say that during our six-plus months of Calgary winters we don’t mind, but come the changing of the seasons it can get annoying. Imagination is key though. Think of the campus as a Zombies versus Humans post-apocalyptic waste ground for the student body. If that doesn’t keep you awake shifting between classes, I don’t know what will.

Despite the drawbacks, there are many incentives for attending a spring semester. For one, you actually have the chance to study in sunny weather and get that vitamin D we all need so badly. You can also take your pick of biking, boarding or scooting to navigate the now sparsely-bodied campus. 

Another key observation I’ve made is that professors and instructors are usually more easy-going when it comes to grading, but it does depend on the course and professor. Even though we’re hit with a semester’s worth of PowerPoint slides crunched into a few weeks, I have found that if you get a Teaching Assistant for a tutorial that goes along with a more difficult course, they will normally be more lax when it comes to marking and they may give you more leeway. 

I find that punctuated learning — taking two courses over two months or so — actually works much better for me than a traditional four-month semester. Spring courses allow you to absorb more knowledge on fewer subjects and to be more concise when it comes to retaining information. 

A fun attribute to spring semester is getting to meet new people — especially the incoming international exchange students — and learn about their perspectives and way of life of where they come from. If not that, then try out a new volunteer or intern experience now that you have more breathing room from your the regular school year’s extracurricular activities. Some meetups or events are tied to campus clubs so you can always connect and trying something new. 

The best part of spring semester is having Fridays off. Plenty of classes don’t run on Fridays during the intersession. It should be an institutional rule to always give students not just those glorious half-days we all miss from our grade school days, but the whole entire day off. I don’t know about you but I’d rather have each week shortened than an extended reading week — although that’s nice too, so maybe we should have both!

Use spring semester to unwind, even if you’re taking classes. Enjoy countless hours of relaxation, binge eating and oversleeping. Get caught up with old acquaintances or actually check out the rock climbing wall at the student gym that you keep putting off. Or, catch up on some much-needed self-care so that you’re more resilient and ready to go for the upcoming fall semester. Be random, exploratory and open to new possibilities.

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