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Students Find Outlets for Relaxation and Freedom Outside of Dorms

Students have escaped their dorm rooms to study outside and in newly-reopened common spaces.
Students have escaped their dorm rooms to study outside and in newly-reopened common spaces. By Nicholas M. Sertl
By Sydnie M. Cobb and Declan J. Knieriem, Crimson Staff Writers

From picnics on the banks of the Charles River to brass concerts in Cambridge Common, Harvard students living on campus have discovered new outlets to enjoy themselves outside of their stifling dorm rooms.

Undergraduates are beginning to flock to newly reopened common spaces such as the Smith Campus Center, Cabot Science Library, and Memorial Hall when they need a change of scenery.

L. Madison Pankey ’24 — currently living in Greenough Hall — said she had looked for places to study outside her suite since the semester began, opting for cafes around Cambridge. Since the Smith Center opened for individual study, however, she said she has spent time there nearly everyday, adding that she appreciates the separation between her room and study space.

“It's really awesome, actually,” she said. “I’m so happy they opened something up just because it’s really difficult to do your studying in the same place that you take classes, there’s just a lack of motivation.”

Naomi Davy ’22 said she has gone to the Smith Center in recent weeks, and said trying to study in her room is a “recipe for disaster.” Davy said she has also used the Malkin Athletic Center since it reopened for residential use in late September.

In addition to using indoor study spaces around campus, many students said they are taking advantage of the remaining weeks of warm weather to study and dine outdoors, including in House courtyards and by the river.

Amelia M. Cossentino ’23 and fellow members of the Harvard Radcliffe Orchestra recently played a socially distanced brass players rehearsal in Cambridge Common. She said the impromptu recital made her “nostalgic” for practicing and performing in semesters past.

Cossentino also said her need to separate her living and studying spaces led her to explore new outdoor areas on campus.

“I think this definitely sort of urged me to explore a lot of the external spaces that are even just on campus, you don't have to go very far to find a lot of spaces I just hadn’t previously considered using,” she said. It’s really necessary to separate those mindsets of work and relaxation as much as possible.”

As fall wanes and the weather gets colder, however, students said they will look to move their study spaces indoors to escape the Cambridge winter.

Samantha M. Galvin ’24 said she frequents the Winthrop Courtyard when she needs to get away from her dorm room. As temperatures drop, however, the chairs were removed from the courtyard.

With the outside studying spaces gone, Galvin said she hopes common spaces in Houses and dorms will open to compensate.

“When it’s cold or raining, because I’m in a single, I go the whole day without seeing anyone,” Galvin said. “When it’s those types of days, it would be nice to have common spaces open so you can talk to the people you live around and just go somewhere that isn’t your room.”

Omolara “Lara” F. Dada ’24 said she also frequently uses outdoor College spaces, such as House courtyards, to spend time with friends, and called the opportunity to spend time outside her suite “liberating.” She added that outdoor spaces have brought her semester closer to what it might have been without COVID-19 restrictions.

“I think it’s definitely given us at least some semblance of a normal semester,” she said. “It’s definitely much much better than being at home, because at least there’s been the opportunity to meet people.”

“But it's definitely still challenging at times,” she added. “Sometimes you just want to just stay in your room and it feels like it's not worth it.”

—Staff writer Sydnie M. Cobb can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @cobbsydnie.

—Staff writer Declan J. Knieriem can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @DeclanKnieriem.

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