With summer over and the fall semester just beginning, I find myself feeling both excited and sad. I spent my summer here in Binghamton with a couple of friends, and although we all had work and summer classes, we still managed to have a ton of fun. There’s just something special about summer — the long days, warm nights and seemingly unlimited time to adventure and enjoy life. I’m sad that it’s over, as I’m sure many of you are, but just because summer’s over doesn’t mean the fun has to be over, too.
Throughout my two years of college, I’ve found that students often sacrifice fun and leisure for schoolwork. I realize that the main reason we’re here at college is to learn — after all, we pay big bucks for it — and I don’t take issue with the learning itself. What I take issue with is the diminished quality of life that so often comes with it.
A Stanford University study conducted in 2014 declared that high school students who spend too much time on homework “experience more stress, physical health problems … and even alienation from society.” The students noted that their homework led to issues such as sleep deprivation, headaches, weight loss and stomach problems. Furthermore, students were “more likely to drop activities, not see friends or family, and not pursue hobbies they enjoy.” I’m sure that many college students reading this have had similar experiences.
When it comes to studying and fun, we all benefit from finding a balance. Oddly enough, this actually leads to higher productivity. Another study conducted by Stanford on the productivity of workers found that output increased with hours worked only to a certain threshold past which output steadily decreased. This threshold is similar to the “burnout” that college students often experience. Our bodies were not made to work all the time; we need rest and relaxation in order to refocus and recharge. Sometimes, less work is more.
But we shouldn’t make time for fun solely to be more productive; we should have fun for the sake of fun itself. Society today functions under an age of “total work,” meaning that every aspect of our lives is centered around work. Leisure time is not only prioritized less than work, but is also only valued because it ultimately leads to higher productivity.
Here at Binghamton University, where the intensity of schoolwork has earned us our esteemed reputation as the “premier public Ivy,” I see many students fall into the trap of total work. It may be difficult to make room for leisure time or to enjoy the time we can make, but if we don’t, we risk losing sight of other things that may matter even more in the greater scheme of life.
When was the last time you sat outside late at night and simply looked up at the stars? Have you ever taken a break from schoolwork to draw something, play an instrument or go on a hike in the Nature Preserve? What about being so deep in a conversation that by the time you finished talking, you were a bit late for class?
Let me be clear that I’m not advocating for college students to stop studying altogether. Rather, I am acknowledging the many reasons why we should consider studying less and making more time to enjoy ourselves. There are clubs and organizations to get involved with, Downtown Binghamton festivals and attractions to be explored, dinner conversations to be had, new people to meet and old friends to keep. Let this article serve as a reminder that these things matter.
So, let the fun of the summer continue into the new semester. Enjoy the precious moments of your one finite life and find that perfect balance between work and play. Whatever you do, don’t let college life become too much college and not enough life.
Georgia Kerkezis is a junior majoring in environmental studies.