Christina Cummings | Staff Writer | ccummings3@mail.smcvt.edu

As finals week approaches, stress and focus reach their annual peak, and students venture out to find their favorite places to study.  Nooks and crannies exist all around campus where students can find an environment to be productive during this nerve-wracking time.

After walking up the stairs of McCarthy Art Center, one can find a small office fit with a grand piano and a large window that provides a view spanning from the Tarrant parking lot all the way to Alliot. For Fernando Barriga ‘22, this is one of the best study spots. But this is just one of many. 

“I never really went off campus to do work until this year, so I’ve found lots of cool spots [on campus] during the past few years to work,” Barriga said as he opened the door to the Ferrell Room on the third floor of St. Edmund’s Hall, which also has large windows. 

“Anywhere where you can see everything around campus is where I like to go,” Barriga explained, as he provided a glimpse into the time capsule of his academic journey at St. Michael’s.

Finding the perfect site around campus to study can ease nerves, provide comfort and foster a rewarding work experience. The location can look different for every student. For some, it may be in Dion, listening to their favorite music with headphones on while completing schoolwork. For others, this can be sitting in a hammock at the 300s field while the wind breezes through the trees providing white, ambient noise. Regardless, students find having a place that accommodates personal needs can be crucial in fostering a productive work environment.

“Throughout freshman and sophomore year I wanted to stay in the dark of my room, but as I got older, it found it better for me to see light and what’s going on outside,” Barriga said. Natural light and views across campus seemed to be a common trait amongst all his favorite spots.

One of these spots is the McCarthy piano room. From here, Barriga can look out the window and see his house in the 300s, the place he goes for dinner, and the building he works out in, all in one glance. This makes him feel grounded, subconsciously reassuring himself that those things aren’t going anywhere, allowing him to settle in.

Emily Sullivan ’23, a public health major, finds herself conducting her homework and study sessions just down the hall from her dorm room, in one of Aubin’s common rooms. 

“First of all, there are very comfy chairs. Second, it’s very isolated and you can’t hear through the walls at all so it’s very quiet, and I think the view helps me a lot too,” Sullivan said. 

As the sun sets over the 300s field, hues of pink and orange offer a therapeutic backdrop that allows her to relax. Sullivan completes her final projects while listening to Taylor Swift through her headphones.

A need for natural light and the outdoors during times of stress seems to be a common thread among many students on campus. Health Science Major Maggie Varley ’23 found an escape in these places last year, among stress induced by COVID-19 and the process of adapting to online classes. 

“Going outside to do work was a break from the strict structure from the pandemic,” Varley said. During that time, she found herself taking advantage of the benches between Lyons and Joyce Hall.

“Most of the time we all would have classes on Zoom, being in our rooms all day, so going outside to do homework on the benches outside Lyons was like a breath of fresh air, no pun intended,” she said. 

Not only during the pandemic, but also during finals, escaping normal living spaces and getting into the outdoors has become a priority for some students. Although some students find natural light and chirping birds helpful to be productive, other students have different preferences. For Business Major Cooper Wilson ’25, the scene is set inside the comfort of his Lyons Hall dorm room with his blinds shut, illuminated by only his laptop screen, and a very different playlist from Sullivan.

“I can’t study when there are people around talking or if there is normal music playing,” Wilson said. “I don’t know why, but I have a thing called ‘Hogwarts Classroom Ambience’ which I always use when studying.”

Wilson is referring to a three-hour compilation of music from the Harry Potter movies. This collection has no lyrics, and Wilson finds it relaxing, offering little room for distraction. Wilson said he is easily distracted by music with lyrics and spaces with windows that allow him to look outside.

For other students like Wilson, maintaining the same location and certain accommodations for studying can make them the most productive. Psychology Major Molly Gannon ’25 said she has soundly secured her study space on the second level of the Durick Library. The library seems to be a hot spot for students to escape their dorm rooms, which can hold a plethora of distractions.

“[It’s] quiet, a place where there’s no one around, and somewhere where I can put my phone away, and get work done in a good amount of time,” Gannon said. She also expressed how she holds herself to a regimented schedule, since she is part of the women’s lacrosse team. By making lists, organizing her time, and establishing a study location, she is able to maintain productivity and waive much of the stress of her busy schedule.