May 17, 2005

With B.A.s turned in, fourth-years begin to feel the itch

Bright faces on the quad and an air of relaxation usually indicate the arrival of warm weather and springtime, but as the Chicago climate has remained capricious and dismal this year, this change can only mean one thing: the end of the daunting B.A. paper.

Papers were turned in at various points last month, and expressions of relief and joy have replaced the dazed and confused look of sleeplessness worn by many fourth-years in the past months. Relieved of a great weight, many fourth-years now have the leisure time to enjoy the rest of their final quarter at the University.

Some have caught the senioritis plague and are struggling to concentrate on their studies. "I find myself almost physically unable to do work," said Tyler Brown, a history concentrator. Having labored over his B.A. throughout his spring break, he said he now spends his time with friends he "neglected while writing the B.A., and listening to old Prince records."

Others have not gone to the extreme of rejecting work altogether; instead, they allow time for some work, but also for play. After Bethany Johnson-Kerner handed in her biological chemistry paper in April, she found herself with something she had not previously had in her years at college: free weekends.

"I used to work on Friday and Saturday nights, but now I can see my friends and spend time with my boyfriend," Johnson-Kerner said. Among her recent activities she counted sunbathing, making chocolate-covered strawberries, biking to the beach, and watching a movie on Monday night. She is also free to devote more time to extracurricular activities, particularly community service. "I'm spending lots more time on WYSE (Women and Youth Supporting Each Other), which is really great, because as a graduating senior you want to feel like you're giving your last push," she said.

Sarah Frank, who chose to write a creative B.A. for her English degree, described the whole experience as cathartic. She said that working on the project turned her into a sheltered "lunatic" during winter quarter, resulting in worried e-mails from friends and teachers.

Unlike some others who could not wait to get the paper off their minds, Frank is still not quite satisfied with the product. "[T]hough I turned in the final drafts a couple weeks ago—which felt great—in no way do I feel like it is finished," she said. "I'm still compelled to work on the project, compulsively."

Reflecting on the whole process, Frank is ultimately grateful for the experience. "I think getting in touch with that creative process has turned me into a better reader, a better writer," she said. "I'm probably more anxious now than when I started the project, but at least I know why, which is something I couldn't have articulated before."

Future anxiety seems to underlie present relief, however, for many in the class of 2005. Brown and Johnson-Kerner both expressed nervousness about their next step.

"It was definitely a relief for a while, but a greater weight has replaced [the paper]," Brown said. "What am I going to do with the rest of my life?"