Recently, the Record was under fire for printing in its On the Record a quote from an anonymous freshman claiming that all he did during Winter Study was “smoke and drink.”
Many termed it to be an inaccurate representation of what Winter Study is for most students at Williams. However, after further retrospection on the just completed Winter Study, one wonders how “inaccurate” that representation really is. After all, while one may find some students using Winter Study to further their knowledge and broaden their minds, it is likely that they will find many more students using that time to “smoke and drink.”
In fact, judging from the large volume of parties almost every day and the furor in the Frosh Quad that caused two students to even write a DA announcement about it, it is hard to see how that student’s view wasn’t a true portrayal of Winter Study.
In deed, while some were busy interviewing for jobs or conducting scientific research, the all too unfortunate fact was that a great majority of students were engaged in activities that were unproductive, to say the least.
Indeed, what makes this situation so unfortunate are the lost opportunities that arise because so many students fail to acknowledge the true value of Winter Study.
Contrary to popular belief, this month is not about partying till you drop. Rather, it is about exploring new disciplines, acquiring lifelong skills, and engaging one’s self in non-traditional areas of study that can’t be explored in a regular semester course. There are many things that cannot be taught in the classroom and it is this Winter Study period that allows students to immerse themselves in those areas.
Moreover, some of the great things about Winter Study come not from the courses themselves, but from what students can do in their free time. Because Winter Study courses are not as intensive as ones in the regular semester, students have ample amounts of free time in which they can do other things that normally couldn’t be done regularly. Performing volunteer work, hearing a lecture, or exploring the Art Museum are just one of the many activities students can participate in freely during this extra time.
Unfortunately, most students don’t recognize this and instead see Winter Study as a month long party with a little class squeezed in between. Few, if any, take the Study Period as seriously as they do the regular semester.
This could possibly have been understood somewhere else. But not at a school like Williams, whose students show time and time again during the regular semester their aptitude for scholastic achievement.
After all, during the semester, most of the students who partied every Monday night during Winter Study are busy studying for their next midterm. During the regular semester, everyone on campus puts their best foot forward when it comes to class. During the regular semester, one won’t find crazy parties or loud revelers causing problems late at night.
Williams students are neither lazy nor dumb. They are obviously capable and intelligent students who work their best every month of the year except January.
In reality, it is not a question of ability, but rather one of understanding and willpower. Just about all of us know the importance of the regular semester. That is of course why we all work so hard during that time. Few of us, however, realize the significance of Winter Study.
It is this lack of understanding that results in so few people taking full advantage of this opportunity. There are many capable people at this school who could achieve a great many things during this time if only they were to understand its significance.
Now of course not everyone has to join the MET or Russian icons courses to take full advantage of Winter Study. We all need a little bit of “down time” before the regular semester and it is all right if we use this time to party a little bit more than usual.
But clearly what has happened is too much partying and not enough in the form of productive activity. A lot can be done in Winter Study, especially from intelligent, hard-working Williams students. Of course, this can only come about when students realize that Winter Study is about broadening minds, not alcohol tolerances.