For Want of the Main Library…

In UK universities like the University of Edinburgh, students get two weeks for Easter/Spring Break, a week (or so) of revision (i.e. no classes) and then there is an approximately month long period during which final exams take place. This is the time to review all the information covered over the course of the semester to prepare for the single cumulative exam that will likely constitute over half of your course grade. I have found that for most students, finals period is an odd attempt to balance hardcore studying with hardcore procrastination. Students, myself included, spend hours poring over months of material, sorting out notes and lecture materials, brushing up on readings, and wondering how we could ever have put it off until now. It’s all in extremes right now – and it all happens in the library.

The Main Library is a popular study spot (especially for the Edinburgh Quidditch team!), but with its recent policy change (now it’s open 24 hours) and the fact that finals are here, the library is almost always packed to the gills with students. The atmosphere is tense from the beginning, as it takes a keen eye and impeccable timing to get a study space. In a university of about 33,000 students, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised – but I was. Suddenly I was faced with a dilemma: where am I going to study?!

Once I got over the initial shock, I realized this is a great opportunity to find new study spaces. I can handle a variety of study environments, whether silent (not my favorite, but headphones help me get through it) or loud and crowded (again, headphones do help). So far, I have explored study spaces including the New College Library, located on the Mound, near Edinburgh Castle. New College Library is one of those hidden gems of the University of Edinburgh. It’s a small library but also sort of out of the way, so fewer students know of it. Large ceilings with skylights make the space even better. I like going here, but have found that even for a lesser known space, it fills up!

I have also studied in cafes, including Cult Espresso, another student favorite I have noticed, and the Hula Juice Bar and Cafe in Grassmarket. Friends’ flats are good for me, as they offer a nice combination of somewhere else, somewhere familiar, distraction, and serious studying. Plus, there’s almost always food to munch – major plus. My flat is all right, but I’m there a lot. A change of scenery is nice. One evening I found a bench in one of the university cafes, another day I spent the entire day in a Library Cafe booth, and still another I sat at a table in the Library Bar. One afternoon, the weather was nice enough to sit outside and study (shocker!).

Searching for new study spaces is exciting. It stretches my understanding of the university buildings as well as forces me to be a bit creative in wandering beyond the confines of the university. Who knows what I’ll find next!

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