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How to stay civil through exams, and not hate everyone by beach week

Published: April 17, 2013, 11:30 pm ET
Graphic by Francesca Burkhardt
Opinions Assistant

Academic stress doesn’t bring out the best in any of us. Some retreat to the library for 24+ hours, subsisting off 8:15 bagels and red eyes (double shot, iced, with skim). Some plan ahead, only to spend the morning leading up to the exam or deadline freaking out that they didn’t study hard enough, or forgot an essential detail.

Some people get passive-aggressive; some just get mean. Some people get sad. My method involves copious amounts of comfort food; for example, the greatest barrier hindering the completion of this article right now is that it is being typed with one hand, while the other gets very personal with a bag of Sour Cream and Onion Lays chips. It’s gross, I know.

This time every semester, when previously “easy” professors assign back-to-back research papers and exams loom threateningly in the distance, we all catch glimpses of the darker sides of those closest to us. Thankfully, many of us have one sweet, glimmering, sunburnt bright spot at the end of the tunnel to look forward to. That is beach week.

Ah, the glory. Old grudges are forgotten, new bonds are forged, estranged lovers reunite and the girl next to you in line for the bathroom becomes your best friend in the world – for the next 15 to 20 minutes.

The question is, how do we make it to beach week – through two weeks of harrowing academic evaluation – without ending up hating our roommates, significant others, friends and family? Lucky for University of Richmond, I am here with a handy list of what not to do if you don’t want any weird tension in your beach week house because everyone heard about that time you threw a melted Mango Refresher at your housemate when they wouldn’t stop humming in the “low voices” section at 2:45 a.m.

1) Don’t sexile your roommate.

I really hope this goes without saying, but if your roommate has an exam the next morning that they either need to be studying or sleeping in preparation for, sexiling them is rude. They will be mad at you, and if they do poorly on the exam, that’s a really awkward issue to take the blame for when you run into or live with them during beach week.

A permanently lowered GPA is not something we take lightly about here at Richmond, even if you have been embracing the beach week lifestyle for three days already.

2) Don’t talk about how well your five-day juice cleanse is going and how much you’ve been working out to get your beach week body.

First, no one really cares. If someone is pretending to care, then he or she is a good friend and you shouldn’t push your luck. Second, if the poor person you’re talking to really wishes they could be going to the gym but has too much work to take the time, then for them you have just embodied all that is unjust in the world. Run.

This will all come to a head during beach week if you feel great and your just-survived-5.5-credits friend feels less so. This is especially true if you continue to talk about it. Just stop talking about it. The universe begs you.

For example: You: “So I’ve cut down to only 1200 calories per day and I’m lifting every day before dinner. Watch out boys/ladies! I’m also doing 45 minutes of cardio in the morning and I’m pretty sure I can lose another 2 inches by Friday if I keep up my schedule. I feel pretty rejuvenated. I also might start doing workouts with ROTC and…”

Friend: (Tone of politely sarcastic interest) “Oh, yeah? That’s great for you.”

3) Don’t talk about how relieved you are to be done with that exam/paper/project, when your friends are still studying for/working on one.

This is probably less of a capital sin than the others, but if it becomes a regular practice, the resentment will build up. The worst thing you could do here is giddily invite all the friends you see in the library to The Cellar for a study break or to “lighten up.” If you sound too happy or try to push the issue, someone is bound to snap.

4) Don’t eat your roommate’s study snacks.

Under normal circumstances, I would sanction harmless nibbling on food you maybe didn’t pay for. However, during crunch time, snacks are sometimes all a person has. The second-to-last piece of pizza, the jelly beans leftover from Easter, that sketchy 150 calorie ice cream from ETC — you don’t know what that might mean to someone. Those 150 calories of masquerading slushie might be all that your roommate was looking forward to after a marathon thesis-writing session. The crux of the matter is this: In times of great hardship, don’t mess with the food of the person who shares a very small living space with you.

5) Don’t give constant social media updates about how your week is going.

To echo number two, no one cares that much. Well, maybe someone does. But I can guarantee that not every one of your Facebook friends is interested in how many more pages you have left. Call a parent, text a boyfriend or girlfriend, maybe even update your buddies over a quick dinner at D-Hall. But if you’re posting regular screenshots of your complicated equations alongside statuses such as “four down, seven to go! Good thing I got this extension! Feeling optimistic for now… will let everyone know if mood changes,” then keep your fingers crossed that anyone you hoped to get closer with during beach week has temporarily deleted their account.

Good night, and good luck.

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