Life at Iowa: How UI students spent their first wellness day

On March 2, the UI campus experienced the first of two days for which the university canceled instruction in place of spring break. However, many students used the day to catch up on piling homework rather than relaxing.

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Grace Smith

Liv Plowman (left), Makenzie Schmidt (middle), and Sophie Selc (right) are pictured having a picnic on the Pentacrest on Tuesday, March 3, 2021, University of Iowa’s instructional day. After canceling spring break, Iowa gave students and faculty two instructional breaks during the semester.

Tatiana Plowman, Arts Reporter


The loss of spring break hit hard at the University of Iowa campus, joining many other universities, such as Purdue and Yale. Students are feeling burnt out because of piling assignments and the approach of midterms, and a lack of time to rest. Although students have two wellness days for the semester, one on March 2 and another on April 14, these do not equate to what a full spring break would be for students.

On these wellness days, all virtual and in-person instruction is paused. The UI encouraged students to use the day to seek assistance with coursework and take the time to work on assignments. While many professors were available for office hours or answering emails, most of my professors had canceled theirs for the day.

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My Tuesday schedule is normally packed. With three courses from 11 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., I have one 10-minute break and then a 30-minute one throughout the entire day. For me, having no Tuesday classes for a day served as a great relief.

Two students, Nick Fitzpatrick (left) and Kourany Katzen (right) are seen on and near the Old Capitol Building on Tuesday, March 3, 2021, University of Iowa’s instructional day. After canceling spring break, Iowa gave students and faculty two instructional breaks during the semester.  (Grace Smith)

However, students like UI sophomore Will Whited, who has two asynchronous courses on Tuesdays, felt a completely different impact.

“I almost pulled an all-nighter on Monday working on homework,” Whited said. “This allowed me to spend the majority of my Tuesday catching up on sleep.”

I decided to take my first instructional-break day to visit home for an extended weekend to celebrate a close friend’s birthday and see my family. I knew that I needed to have some time with them in order to successfully continue with the long semester.

Although the university encouraged students to not travel during these days, my mental health came first. I took safety precautions my entire weekend to ensure that I wouldn’t cause anyone to be sick. With an entirely virtual schedule on Mondays, it was easy for me to attend my classes remotely from home.

Spring break is often the one time during the semester when students can visit family and friends or travel for vacation. Jacqueline O’Neill, a junior, also spent her Tuesday at home with family members. In past spring breaks, she normally visited family or picked up extra shifts at work.

“I tried not to do anything school or work-related, as I have been super overwhelmed with everything,” O’Neill said. “I let myself participate in my leisure activities such as cross-stitching and listening to an audiobook.”

I let myself sleep in on Tuesday until 9 a.m., which was huge for me since I am normally awake by 8 a.m. Back home in Kansas City, the weather was absolutely gorgeous, reaching a high of 60 degrees. I ate all of my meals outside and went on long nature walks with my mom and dog. Soaking in the sunshine and laughing with my family was definitely what I needed.

But after I ate dinner, I immediately jumped back into my traditional habits of completing assignments and reading lengthy chapters from my textbooks. Despite not having classes to attend on Tuesday, the workload didn’t shift one bit. I still had assignments due by 8 a.m. on Wednesday. My professors did not reduce the amount of work whatsoever. Many other students expressed on social media that they also spent their day working on large assignments or studying for exams.

Students are seen walking in downtown Iowa City on Tuesday, March 3, 2021, University of Iowa’s instructional day. After canceling spring break, Iowa gave students and faculty two instructional breaks during the semester.  (Grace Smith)

While I believe the majority of UI students appreciated the day off, there is no doubt a full week would have relieved burnout and Zoom exhaustion more adequately than two days a month apart. I do think the university made this decision in the best interest of the entire community’s physical health, but students are feeling the impact of a semester with little to no break time on their mental health.

 

“At the time the decision was made, it was for the best because with spring break a lot of people tend to travel,” O’Neill said. “It really is hard to go through a semester without a proper break and I definitely feel burnt out.”

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