An Essential Guide to Not Letting Conference Week Kill You

Few SLC students know (or are willing to recognize) that Conference Week  is our own invention, concocted out of stress, Adderall, and our failed best intentions to get it done early.

The administration might condone cancelling conferences on the last week of the semester, but, like the "3 class rule" (if you miss three classes, you still get credit, right? RIGHT GUYS?), it’s a part of student lore nowhere in the official SLC handbook. Maybe someone should do a conference project on that, and uncover the true origins of the bathtub-full-of-spaghetti myth while they’re at it.

Either way, Conference Week (i.e. any time between when you personally begin flipping out and the end of the semester) is real enough to us, and so is the bone-rattling, sleep-{interrupting}, caffeine-and nicotine-fueled anxiety that comes with it. It certainly doesn’t help that after three weeks of deciding, the weather has gone from unseasonably lovely to straight up arctic. It’s the perfect recipe for a campus full of psychostimulated zombies, padding barefoot around the library and searching the stacks for the last copy of The Archeaology of Knowledge.

Luckily, there are a few things to do to combat the inevitable conference breakdown.

1) You could start by smiling. I know being happy is way uncool, but outside of SLC and possibly Williamsburg (I take it back—spread love, it’s the Brooklyn way!), smiling is a normal part of human interaction. When someone smiles at you, smile back. You don’t have to know them, or like them, or want to stop to talk to them, or even feel like you personally have something to smile about, just smile. It will brighten their day, and yours, and everyone around you who just witnessed the exchange.

2) It’s tempting to use your study breaks to complain about the 27 pages you just wrote, but try to talk about something else. When someone asks, “How’s it going?”, they don’t mean the outline you worked all night on; they mean you. Also, don’t check out just yet: something your classmate is saying might just be the thing that makes your whole paper make sense. Talk about something other than the gender norms of Amazonian river otters, and what you’ll hear is that everyone else is in the exact same boat, which brings me back to my point that everyone needs to smile.

3) Finally, use this time to reflect on all the things left undone this semester. The museums you never visited, the nights out you bailed on, the club you signed up for but never went to. This seems daunting, but it will get you excited for the new semester and take your mind off all the stress of right now. Take a cig break and let your mind wander thinking about next year, the year you finally take the Met van.

The conference system is what makes Sarah Lawrence unique, but also what makes it completely fucking ridiculous. Most college students wouldn’t dream of being required to crank out a 30-page paper of their own design, but they probably wouldn’t be able to pull it off, either. Obviously, we all came here for knowledge that can’t be found in a 6,000-page Organic Chemistry final. As Alice Walker said of her alma mater:

"Fortunately, what Sarah Lawrence teaches is a lesson called 'How to Be Shocked and Dismayed but Not Lie Down and Die,' and those of you who have learned this lesson will never regret it, because there will be ample time and opportunity to use it." *

So if you’ve ever had a professor completely eviscerate the thirty-page essay you spent all night writing, stopped for a good cry, and then headed straight to the library to start again, you’ve already learned this lesson. Drop out of school and ask for your money back!

* Editor's note: This quote is from Alice Walker's In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens: Womanist Prose (1983). It is important to keep context in mind: Ms. Walker was criticizing the lack of acknowledgement of black literature and writers by SLC faculty at that time.

Ms. Walker continues: "Your job, when you leave here—as it was the job of educated women before you—is to change the world. Nothing less or easier than that."

–Emily

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