Ditching laptops and boyfriends in favour of the City Library

Monday, October 4, 2010

Exam time is looming. The smell of stress and smuggled hot food from Railway New World Metro is starting to permeate the air. All going to plan, this will be my final set of university end-of-year exams. That doesn’t have the same ring to it as ‘my last ever exam period’, but it is still exciting to think that this time next year, I will be done with the mediocre institution that is Victoria University. In an extreme case of counting my chickens before they’ve hatched, I’m feeling a little sentimental and reflective about my last five years at law school. It is strange to think back to the Di stressfully applying for Halls of Residence and reminiscing is a similar way about the previous five years of high school. Would 17-year-old Di have expected that the last half-decade would play out the way it has? What advice would she have sought to get her through the coming, inevitably topsy-turvy, years?

In a recent article in the New York Times, ‘Ditch Your Laptop and Your Boyfriend’, five college students were asked to give their advice on how to get the most out of the university experience. The catchy headline was not really very representative of the actual advice in the article, as the majority was more of the variety you would expect from parents and teachers; become involved in your university community, open your mind to new ideas and people, and have some interesting experiences along the way. But I feel if I could give one gem of advice to a new first-year student in 2011 it would be to indeed ditch your laptop and your boyfriend.

Fresh from the disciplined environment of high school, new students have always struggled with time-management, independent research and staying on task without a teacher berating them to do so. Actually, not even just new students. I struggle with this constantly. And all the more so in the last year, given the increased presence of the internet in my life (see: this blog).  Christine Smallwood, a PH.D student at Columbia, suggests that students enjoy ‘internet-free’ time and turn off their mobile devices each day for a while. She advocates for occasionally disconnecting from the world and returning to more traditional classroom situations where not everyone is hidden behind a screen. She, quite rightly, points out that taking notes on a laptop is not actually in your best interest, no matter how you try to justify it in terms of more legible, coherent notes. Instead, ditch your laptop and you’ll enjoy a far richer, more stimulating education and life experience. 

Last week, I unwittingly trialled this advice. With an essay deadline looming, I spent a day at the Wellington City Library, determined to get some work done. There are a lot of wonderful things about the City Library. It’s reliably clean and warm/a comfortable temperature. The library cafĂ© is a wonderful blast from the past. Their melting moments are indeed melt-in-your-mouth moments of joy. But the most attractive attribute is actually what it lacks. The internet. You, seemingly wonderful in your ability to connect me to the world and all of the knowledge contained within, have become the biggest challenge to my productivity. At the university library, I estimate that about 75% (random figure, more just indicating the majority) of internet usage is spent on Facebook alone. When I’m at work, there is a little voice in the back of my head that reminds I am being paid to work, not to social network. But not at university. There, any distraction from what is now a tired pursuit, is a welcome distraction. Walking into the library computer labs has become what it must be like to walk into a National Party conference; a sea of blue and white. So, long story not-so-short, I went to the City Library where the internet is only available if you pay something ridiculous like $3 for half-an-hour and I got more work done in a day than in the entire week prior. Maybe entire fortnight prior, given that last week was a particularly unproductive week.

So maybe the advice shouldn’t be to ditch your laptop. Alone, laptops are actually quite boring. I don’t even think mine has Solitaire or Mice on it. Maybe it should be, First-year of 2011, ditch constant internet connectivity. Do you really need your laptop in class to take notes? Will you be able to resist popping open a tab to check the latest news story or what photos you’ve been tagged in from the night before at the Big Kumara? Or when you are writing that assignment, do you really need to be on the internet at the same time? Can’t the odd need-to-wiki be held-off for a few hours? If you are like me and pathetically lack the necessary self-control to resist the temptation of the internet, come hang out at the City Library. I'll be there, with my melting moment trying to pass this set of exams and moving onto the next five-year-block of my life.  

(Also, I totally agree with the ‘ditch your boyfriend’ advice from Rebecca Elliot. How many high-school relationships lingered on into the start of university, only to inevitably end three months later? Tragic. However, if your boyfriend/girlfriend is conducive to study and happy to hang out at the City Library, you can keep them. )


This was the first book to be loaned in Wellington. Look how happy they are to have ditched their laptop. 


Liz said...

Great post Di xxx

oliviapark said...

Very nice, Di!

I also crank ze library to escape the internet (I am school now and productive I am not - hence the blog reading).

Fun post! See you at Book Club next week!

Olivia x

Di said...

Thanks lovely Liz and Olivia! I am pleased that others share this City Library love. I hope we run into each other one day so we can have Clarks coffee and treats together. X

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