It is the first semester of the 2021/2022 academic year, and UBCO students finally have a midterm break. This is a long-deserved week that the Student Union representatives have finally gotten approved, and I, like many students, are grateful for it. While we are grateful, many students have voiced a similar complaint: the midterm break is too late in the term. As a person who shares this opinion, I believe that I can explain and navigate through some of the arguments for and against the timing of the break.

The midterm break is not in the middle of the term. According to the Academic Calendar, the midterm break takes place from November 8th to November 12th. Considering the semester started in September, it is clear to see that the break is late. When this article is published, the midterm break still would not have come. Many students, myself included, have already felt high levels of fatigue without rest. In this 14-week semester, the middle would have been the weeks of the 18th-22nd or the 25th-29th of October. These weeks are the point in the term that I felt especially exhausted, and it seems like I wasn’t the only one. There was a confession on @uni.confession (formerly @ubcoconfessions) on Instagram that said, “I really wish this school would have midterm break sooner in the semester,” and you can find the rest of what this anonymous 4th year arts student said here. At this point in the term, then, it is not really a “midterm” break. It is just a break. One that many are figuratively and literally crawling to reach.

Some students, though, have differences in when they would prefer the midterm break, depending on what they would want to use the break for. Some students wanted the midterm break earlier in the term so that they could have more time to study for exams. Often, people talk about “midterm season” but the fact of the matter is that for many students, midterms start near the beginning of the semester and end near finals. Midterm season is rarely a small part of the semester, but rather a continuous marathon that extends the entirety of the semester. An earlier break would have given students time to study and recuperate before their next series of exams. Alternatively, some may think that the midterm break should be after the bulk of exams so that they can fully relax and return anew for the latter half of the semester. Unfortunately, what often happens is that professors decide to assign work that is due during and immediately after the midterm break. This has been the experience of many students during reading breaks in the past and is sure to continue for the foreseeable future.

The stressful times do not just fall on the students who have exams. Those who have essay and reading-heavy courses are also fatigued. I fall into this latter category of students. I found myself desperately wishing the midterm break could come sooner because I didn’t have the mental or physical strength to get through another Tuesday with four lectures, almost all of which require group work and in-class assignments. It also didn’t help that I had been sleep deprived from the preceding week. I had to take a day of rest in order to reestablish some feeling of normalcy so I could tackle the rest of the tasks that I had for the week in a better state of mind. If the midterm break was earlier, I, and likely many others, would have been able to better take care of ourselves mentally and physically so that we can do well in our university, professional, and personal lives. Rest is an important component of productivity. 

One last issue is the fact that UBC always lumps in holidays with reading and midterm breaks. This coming break will coincide with Remembrance Day, the 11th of November. Fundamentally, I understand why UBC does this. It is to ensure the flow of teaching isn’t broken up too much and that we have more days to get through the syllabus. But as a student, it is something that I deeply detest. Canada has so few holidays that students rarely get days off. If UBCO placed the midterm break in the middle of the term, we would have had another day off. When they overlap days off they were already going to give with obligatory holidays, it can appear as though the days off are cheapened in a way, and the intent is more on keeping courses on track, rather than ensuring students have adequate days to recuperate. Students that must also balance jobs, internships, volunteer work, campus involvement and their social lives. It also takes away from the seriousness of the holiday, Remembrance Day, as students are likely focusing on their midterm break schedules rather than observing Remembrance Day in full.

There are many different opinions on where reading week should have been placed this semester. Some think that it should have been earlier, and others prefer it where it is. To others it doesn’t matter because the workload they have ensures that they must continuously work regardless. I strongly believe that the midterm break should have been earlier so that students have an earlier opportunity to ensure their well being so they can continue doing their work. Additionally, having it earlier would ensure that students can have more well-deserved breaks later in the semester.