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Sunday, February 8, 2015

A Frugal Reading Week

I remember one prof in university who gave a midterm exam just after Reading week (or February break); the students complained bitterly.  His reply? it’s called ‘READING week’, not ‘vacation-in-the-sun’ week.  Go and read!
Ok, he was not the most fun or loved professor.  However, Reading week was designed (or so says the urban legend) to decrease depression rates in university students in the winter.  Students are stressed, there is not much light outdoors, and depression rates sore.  Bring on Reading week, some students go home, some rest, some go on vacation, some catch up on assignment and studying.  If you are one of the lucky ones who do not need to study too much, you are probably looking for a nice but budget-wise vacation.
Prices for sunny destinations and even ski resorts go up during Reading week, just like they do during March break, Christmas vacations and Easter.  The tourist industry is very well aware that students want a good party during Reading week and that many professors go golfing during that time too.
However, there are still some frugal options for you.  Here are a few.
1. Stay put, but pretend you are a TOURIST in your city and visit all the good sites.  The large expenses of traveling and lodging are non-existent, your bus pass probably gets you everywhere you want to go, so besides attraction entry fees and a few restaurants, you can pretend to be a tourist for very little money.  You can do something similar in your home town if you don’t live at home, with the added cost of going home for the week.  Also enjoy cheaper activities since you do not have the constraints of schedule classes: matinee movies (cheaper), cheap meals at the pub one night, etc.  Make sure to carry your student card everywhere, it may allow you to get discount prices.
2. Go VISIT A FRIEND who studies somewhere else.  I had a friend who did an MBA at Harvard and to this day, it’s the only time I’ve been to Boston.  However, I had a great time visiting with her, saw some stuff on my own for a couple of days (our reading weeks did not match) and had dinner with her in the evenings.  You can do the same with a friend at a different university, enjoying the free lodging and great company.
3. Dive head first into your favorite PAST TIME; you know, the one you never have enough time for? You now have a week where there are no classes.  Even if you need to do some studying, plan a couple of blocks for 2+ hours to devote to crafting, video games, or cross-country skiing.
4. Enjoy the OUTDOORS! Unless you are in British Columbia, winter is cold this year, so embrace it! Get used skates and learn to skate. Borrow cross-country skis and go for a ‘walk’ on the snowy sidewalks or in a nearby nature area.  Go sledding with friends and enjoy hot chocolate.  One cannot be totally miserable playing outside even in the cold.  Just make sure to use the ‘onion’ method: lots of layers of clothing, and make sure to cover all exposed skin.
5. Finally, just TAKE A BREAK and relax.  Read a book that is not a textbook but that you want to read just for fun. Go for a walk.  Start exercising, just like you wanted to do back in early January. Bake a cake.  Watch 3 movies in a row.  Breathe.  Meditate.  Take care of you.

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