Opinion: Iím Exhausted, Please Extend Semester and Mid-Semester Breaks

Having only a week for a mid-semester break feels like some kind of cruel, sick joke. A week? What is this, a mid-semester break for ants? A week barely gives you enough time to catch up on coursework, let alone give you any time to take some time off and, you know, have a break. Even worse, assignments are often due right after these breaks, so you’re forced to use that time giving vaginal birth to essay after essay, even more stressed than during usual class-time.

Let’s say you want to go home to spend time with loved ones. If you live anywhere outside of Dunedin, take off two days for travel there and back. Although it should be the perfect time to catch up with family and friends, most students I know don’t want to spend $300-400 on flights to Auckland just for a measly four or five days of catch ups.

And let’s talk about those in-between semester breaks! Two weeks is all some students get between the last day of the exams and first day of classes for the following semester. Barely have you digested the trauma of semester one before you’re thrown back into the lion's den. You really just need to write off a whole week to cry, let’s be honest. If you want to pick up work, or go overseas (lol) then you need more time than two meagre weeks. Even if some semester breaks turn out longer than this because your exams end early, the exam timetable comes out too late to reasonably book or arrange anything in advance.

We live, my friends, in anarchy.

The thing is, all other universities have longer breaks. Literally, all of them. Even the unspeakable ones. Canterbury has three weeks off for their first mid-semester break, three weeks for their semester break and two weeks for second mid-semester break. Auckland has two weeks off each mid-semester break and three for the semester break. Vic has two weeks off for everything, but a weird three trimester system that frankly, my small, sweaty head cannot grasp. It is us, the Otago freaks, that are the laughing stock of the collegial world. We are the mice trapped in the maze, doomed creatures of the system we inhabit.

Critic checked with Otago, and basically the reason for this whole mess of a system is that, since our semesters are longer, our papers are worth more points. So, a 15-point paper at Vic might be an 18-point paper at Otago, as each point represents about 10 hours of work for an average student.

But…something doesn’t feel right. Firstly, other unis do just fine on 15 point papers and still have most people completing bachelor degrees in three years. Otago isn’t some special snowflake of the academic world; we’re ranked below Auckland in global university rankings, for goodness sake. More importantly, we don’t even have to reduce our points to get bigger breaks! Just push out the semester two finish date by a week or two, babe. For example, Auckland Uni ends on 22 November compared to our 7 November. If we ended slightly later, we could make room for those cosy, comfy holidays we all dream about in mild April nights.

Let’s face it, summer is so unbearably long anyway. I don’t need a full four months. Three months of washing dishes is LONG enough for me, thank you. Some of you might be muttering “what about pre-Christmas summer school?” Yes, it’s true, pre-Christmas summer school starts on 11 November. But, and really listen in close for this, I don’t give a single fuck about pre-Christmas summer school. In 2019 they offered six papers. The majority of them are BA papers. We are holding the holiday dreams of 20,000 students hostage for six teeny tiny papers.

No more, I say, no more!

Fellow students, I want to live where the grass is greener. I want my mid-semester breaks of road trips and shenanigans, not gruelling mornings in the Central Library. We’re young, our breaks are for making memories, or at the very least having a long, leisurely mental health fortnight. The system is broken. At midnight, we revolt.

This article first appeared in Issue 18, 2020.
Posted 5:00pm Sunday 13th September 2020 by Caroline Moratti.