Bored of the library? Try an empty classroom.

    Kickin’ back in an empty classroom. Photo by author / North by Northwestern.

    I have to admit, my pick for this week’s “Underrepresented” is almost entirely self-serving. While I enjoy rigorous physical activity as much as the next person, I decided that it would be best if I stayed on campus this week — preferably somewhere dull, quiet and prisonlike. Since few student groups’ activities fit into this category, I knew that the challenge at hand was more logistical than physical. I was going to have to get creative. How to please your editors and pass your midterms? Find an empty classroom and get to work.

    All insinuations aside, I stumbled upon this idea quite by accident. A few weeks ago I decided to arrive early to a meeting and do some studying there, rather than trek all the way back to my dorm. I had seen students do this in the empty meeting rooms at Norris a number of times, so I didn’t see how a classroom could be any different.

    I wasn’t trying to prove any kind of scientific hypothesis, nor did I have any preconceived notions of how quiet I expected it to be. I came, I sat and I studied. There really wasn’t much to it.

    So, it was little wonder that I chose to pull this out of the arsenal for this week’s post. For as self-serving as it may be, you have to wonder why more Northwestern students aren’t taking advantage of this option. Don’t get me wrong — I enjoy the solitude of the library: it’s quiet, usually spacious and only sometimes does it smell like feet.

    But there are times when I’m looking for something different: something more sterile, a little quieter and a place that would prove less opportune for my people-watching tendencies. That place, so my evening excursion had led me to believe, was the same classrooms we spend our daylight hours in.

    Northwestern has hundreds? Thousands? Let’s shoot for average and say “a bunch” of classrooms that remain relatively unused. Walk the halls, open up a few doors and you’ll either find 30 or so kids staring awkwardly back at you, or the same number of empty chairs calling out your name.

    They were beckoning me, that second time back.

    I chose Kresge, with the thought that enough students had classes there for me to come out with a decent idea of whether or not this theory of mine would take. I walked through the doors, rather unceremoniously, around 12:15 and began my search for “the perfect room.”

    Easier said than done. Nearly all of the classroom doors were closed, which made it hard to tell whether or not a class was in session. After a few unlucky attempts, I found an empty room. I adjusted the mini blinds to my liking and plopped down at the desk at the head of the room. To be honest, I felt a lot more like a little kid playing school than a college student “on a mission.” Regardless, the chair was comfortable, the desk was big and the room was quiet — everything I was hoping it would be. But I may have fantasized about this a little too much; I forgot that because it was a “school day,” there would be people walking the halls, professors giving lectures, and other noisy disturbances that were coincidentally absent on my first excursion.

    But I was not to be swayed — I was determined to make this afternoon productive.

    • 12:25 Begin history reading.
    • 12:26 Overhear class laughing and talking in the hallway. Conversation includes multiple references to the swine flu. Feel intrusive and slightly creepy. Decide to stop actively listening to other people’s conversations.
    • 12:27 Wait, what was that about being exiled?
    • 12:29 Officially stop creeping (also log off Facebook).
    • 12:32 The class moves into the room next door.
    • (Laughing, talking, some sort of intermittent screeching sound)
    • 1:50 The class next door is let out

    By 3 p.m. I was in the library. What I thought would be the perfect place to study turned out to be full of distractions. From the loud professor next door to the noisy hallway to the (eventually) uncomfortable plastic chair, I found it increasingly difficult to keep on task.

    To give my theory the fairness I thought it deserved, I paid another visit to the classroom later that evening to write what would eventually become this column. Although I got kicked out of my first room because it had been reserved for a meeting, and ended up in a reasonably sized lecture hall with a weird noise coming from the ceiling, I’d have to say that the evening environment was much more academic-friendly. Perhaps it’s because the rush of classes was over or maybe because I had much lower expectations this time around.

    But in the end it depends on the individual. Some people prefer studying on the Lakefill and others at Norris. I have friends who do the majority of their homework in the rooms, while others go straight to the library and some swear by the ambiance at Argo Tea. I’ve used this opportunity to rule out my “empty classroom” theory, at least during the day. But I encourage you to give it a shot. While the daytime hours may prove risky, the evenings are much less congested. Outside of a night class or an overlapping meeting, the quiet it affords is a friend to concentration.

    So take off your shoes and put your feet up on the desk. Doodle on the board or even turn on some music. Let the room become a personalized study-environment — we may not be allowed to use the study rooms in the library towers, but I’d say that this is a decent alternative.


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