I do about 75% of my studying in my dorm room. I can get up and move around and listen to music and snack in my room (now apartment). Maybe 15% of the time, I study in our house lounge or the beautiful economics building for a change of scenery and some extra socialization. But the other 10% is my sanity-saver.
Sometime last year, probably the first time my parents came to visit me, I realized that I really love the Hyatt Place hotel 7 blocks from my dorm. The lobby has huge windows that let in loads of natural light and look out on the moderately-busy, store-filled street. The staff members are endlessly nice. I can order tortilla soup and buy candy to snack on. there are lots of comfortable chairs. I commented to my mom that it’s the perfect study space for me. She said I should come over and study sometimes, then.
Honestly, I thought that was a little weird. I figured I would only be allowed to be there if I was actually staying there. But I started going stir-crazy studying in my little room and really needed a change of pace, so I headed over to the hotel a few weeks later and ordered some soup and opened my computer. It was the most productive study day I had had in a while.
Thereafter, the hotel became my location of choice for the floating 10% of my studying. I’d pick an afternoon most weeks, head over to the hotel, and eat soup and chocolate while working on econ reading or linear algebra homework. On days I was particularly hungry, the staff would tease me about cutting me off from the Peanut M&Ms I kept buying. They would add extra tortilla chips on the side of my soup. They would tell me the Wi-Fi password when they changed it. No one ever questioned the fact that I wasn’t staying there.
It kind of became a second (third?) home, or at least a comfort zone. If I was feeling lonely or unfocused, I knew it was probably a good time to head to the hotel and hang out for a few productive hours.
People sometimes asked why I’d go to the hotel. UChicago is full of libraries and coffee shops and little study nooks perfect for escaping your dorm room if that’s your goal. But usually when I go to the Hyatt Place, it’s not just because I don’t want to be in my dorm room. It’s a little more because I don’t want to be at UChicago. Not permanently, of course. Just for the afternoon.
I love where I go to school, and I love many of the people I spend my days with – don’t get me wrong. But last year, I often felt horribly out of place. I value being highly productive (to a fault, admittedly), I honestly prefer to spend my weekend nights working than partying, and I often miss my family and the friends with whom I grew so close throughout high school. Most of last year, I felt like other people were just easily falling into place at school, and I totally wasn’t. I felt like I was surrounded by people who wanted to procrastinate and stay out late and were all automatically best friends, and whether it was true or not, I felt like I was kind of on the outside of all that.
Going to the hotel and getting out of the college bubble, even if barely, was the personal reminder I needed that I was okay and that I was likable and that I could do my own thing and be happy.
I hadn’t been to the hotel all school year, but I was really craving a change of pace this weekend. After class on Friday, I took myself to lunch at Chipotle, walked to the Hyatt to work on some blog stuff and summer applications, and took another class at CorePower before heading back to my dorm for the night. Yesterday, I spent most my day off class there. I ate an early lunch and headed to the Hyatt to work on applications and some writing.
So while I’m absolutely in a much better place than I was last year, sometimes I still need the reminder that it’s completely okay to do my own thing. And I still go to the Hyatt for it.
Do you have a home away from home?