University traditions such as Midnight Breakfast, returning to an in-person event, give students a chance to build community and decompress.
By Nick Erickson
Most of the light George Washington University senior international development major Sally Kim sees during finals period is from her computer screen, and she believes she speaks for many students who are hunkered down studying during crunch time of the semester.
While preparing for examinations and projects can seem daunting, Ms. Kim is appreciative for the resources the university provides during final examinations time that not only allows her to see light at the end of the tunnel, but also builds community with fellow GW students.
This year, the Office of Student Life, a unit within Division for Student Affairs, is especially pleased The Final Lap is back to in-person events ranging from relaxation and mindfulness to movie nights and holiday lights. The Final Lap is open to all GW students and runs from Dec. 1 through Dec. 15.
Midnight Breakfast is one such event and is a GW tradition built on community, friendship and fun. After attending two as a first-year student and a sophomore and participating virtually last year, Ms. Kim is now helping the Office of Student Life coordinate Midnight Breakfast, held from 10 p.m. to midnight Dec. 9 at the University Student Center. All five floors will be used for movie screenings, food stations, giveaways, a bounce house and video games with GW Esports. Ms. Kim also believes she speaks for others in saying the annual gathering is a welcomed way to decompress and take a mental breather.
“Going to Midnight Breakfast reminded me that I was a human again,” Ms. Kim said. “When you're in a room, maybe with no windows, staring at your laptop, Midnight Breakfast can remind you that there is air. And more importantly, it just reminds students that we are all in this together this finals season, and it allows you to destress with your friends.”
Senior public health major Zack Love, who is part of the Capital Peers program, believes The Final Lap and other provided resources are especially important this year as students are still transitioning and adjusting to being back on campus after a virtual academic year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Realizing that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to reaching students who may have processed the past year-and-a-half differently from one another, Mr. Love said that organizers of The Final Lap, which Capital Peers helps coordinate, are doing what they can to meet students “where they are.” He noted that there will be more formidable resources such as mental health discussions mixed in with the usual traditions, so that the Final Lap offers something for everyone.
“The Final Lap does an incredible job bringing students together under very stressful circumstances,” Mr. Love said. “It’s such an interesting way of building community and bonding over something like the end of the semester in a stress-reducing way.”
Students are also encouraged to use resources from the university on managing stress, as well as confidential counseling from the Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at the George Washington University’s Colonial Health Center.
Junior political science and public policy major Imani Harris has noticed a renewed sense of excitement at in-person communal events this fall. Ms. Harris, who is the events director of the Program Board, thought the university did an admirable job putting on a virtual Final Lap last year and is excited to see the in-person turnout.
“We technically have two new classes on campus this semester, and all of our events that we all are putting on, we have a lot of people who are showing up and being engaging,” Ms. Harris said.
Organizers of The Final Lap have tried to encompass a wide variety of resources to help students reach whatever it is they may need, whether it’s a trip down an inflatable slide to let go and relieve some anxiousness for the night, a favorite holiday movie needed to reset or just sharing a few good laughs with peers who are also in need of a break. And if that’s not enough, Ms. Kim has a final sales pitch for events such as Midnight Breakfast with meals and snacks provided.
“I’ll be honest with you. Finals is when you are low on GWorld (funds),” Ms. Kim said. “So, what I’m telling you is that there is free food. Like, come on, people!”
While a mental break is always needed during finals season, GW also provides academic resources to help students maximize their time studying. Academic Commons offers tutoring and course reviews for undergraduate students throughout the final exam period. Students feeling overwhelmed by deadlines, can view two-to-three-minute videos made by GW students with tips for time management. All remote and in-person library services, including the Ask Us Desk, assistance locating resources and contactless book pick up or delivery, are available for students.