There is nothing quite like the euphoria that sets in after the finish of yet another semester, it's like a grand sigh of relief that rises within one and continues for a week or two afterwards. It's similar to an outbreak of blue skies and sunshine after weeks of rain in Northern California.
I've been following these rhythms of university life for years, and still I'm always taken by surprise. One starts a new semester with bright curiosity and emergent optimism, and four months later it's nothing but when is this for god's sakes going to be over? There follow some weeks of relative peace and quiet, and then the whole stress parade begins again.
Does it have to be this way? Wouldn't it be more sensible to study straight through the year in a more leisurely fashion? When I was a student in Germany a long time ago, the five months of academic vacation were the time when you got all your work done -- deep reading, doing your research, writing your seminar papers.
The semester itself was for hearing lectures (no exams), interacting tutorially with the instructors, and of course intense socializing, the huge surfeit of youthful energy that disappears by age 40. Then suddenly would come academic vacation, a period of largely solitary intellectual retreat when you'd do your reading and writing for the following semester.
Anyway, Fall Semester 2010 has now collapsed about me like so much fallen timber, and I've responded by checking out four or five trashy novels and as many opera DVD's from the San Francisco Public Library. Thus fortified I am now squirreled in for the holidays, indifferent to the rains without.