Breaks from academia can do a world of good

Don’t become your studies, your major, or your GPA

School supplies and backpacks lie strewn about on a desk. A whiteboard is in the centre of the photo, and it is blank. Notebooks are open, but it looks like the students have walked off to do other things.
There’s more to life than what we can find in a textbook. PHOTO: Katerina Holmes, Pexels

By: Alex Masse

University is a commitment — if you’re looking to complete a Bachelor’s degree, you can expect at least four years spent in an academic institution. If you pursue a second major, a minor, or take anything less than a full course-load, you add time to your degree.  

In those four-or-more years, you are a student before you are anything else. It becomes a part of your identity. That isn’t always a bad thing — I for one enjoy the assortment of discounts we receive on everything from museums to Spotify memberships — but while some of us may devote our whole lives to scholarly pursuits, for most of us, academia is temporary. 

The transition out of university, known as post-grad depression, is the cause of a worsened mental state in nearly 50% of recent university graduates. This change, among others, is why it’s important in those years to occasionally take breaks from academia. Beyond preparing yourself to better prevent a depressive episode, there are many other advantages to the academic break — and many kinds of academic breaks.

If you still want to work on your degree but need a break from the classroom, a great thing to try is co-op. After all, if you’re aiming for a specific career post-graduation, taking a semester or two to work in that field can be super eye-opening — you might love it as much as you thought, or you might realize it’s not what you were imagining it to be. As well as getting you out of academia, it offers a glance at what your future might hold and could steel your resolve for when you go back to your studies. The best part? Co-op can pad up your resume with relevant experience. If you’re looking for a way to still be a student but step back from your studies, co-op is a great opportunity. 

Another direction is to explore other potential paths and skill sets. This can look like just about anything and it can be a great way to add depth to what you’ve learned in university. Personally, I used what I’d learned in my Communication degree to take on freelance writing and design. I wrote for various platforms, performed at festivals, and had the time of my life being someone other than a student.

Of course, you can also approach something completely unrelated — maybe you’re in STEM, but you’ve always wanted to make and sell jewelry. Maybe you’re in FASS and want to try crocheting. Unlike co-op, you have complete control over where you aim to work. It’s also nice to be someone besides who your degree makes you out to be, and a good way to remind yourself you have other skills and talents. 

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you can have a break from academia for the sake of having a break. It’s one thing to remember how you like to dedicate your energies outside of your studies, but how about who you are outside of your hustle? Who are you when you’re not productive, be that studying, working, or saving up? 

During the pandemic, grind mentality has been through the roof, and it’s important to remember you’re more than how much you get done in a day. No matter how much you love school or how excited you are for your career goals, you can’t forget to give love to who you are — when you’re off the clock, when you’re having fun, and when you’re with your friends. 

In short: take that break! Whichever break works best for what you need. 

Alternatively, take a break. Any break. Your body and mind will thank you.