I Hope You Went Away This Reading Break

This time last year, I did exactly the opposite of what I normally do. I abandoned all my responsibilities, dropped everything, and headed to Smith Rock, Oregon, with a bunch of people I barely knew. And it was a great decision.

Instead of spending reading break writing papers or studying for upcoming midterms, this little nerd packed herself into the back of a car with two boys she had recently met at her new job at the Peninsula Co-op Climbing Wall. We were on a mission: we were going climbing.

Normally, I wouldn’t think that 12 hours of driving (each way) would be worth it for only 4 days of climbing. But, in this case, the road trip was one of the best parts. I ate all too many handfuls of Chicago mix (I would advise against buying the Costco-sized bag, it’s a real hazard), and stayed up all night with Joe and Cole, finding out about their most embarrassing moments, their favourite flavour of chips (I ask strange questions at 2am), and having scary moments driving too quickly around corners. If you want to get to know someone, go on a road trip with them.

When we finally arrived in Smith Rock, it was 4am, and -4 degrees. I instantly realized that I should have brought more clothes, and that February camping was certainly not the same as July camping. Alas, we made it until the morning, and to our utter surprise and delight, woke up in the middle of the desert, looking over the valley and at a whole lot of spectacular rock.

The climbing in Smith Rock, as I had heard before-hand, was unreal. The coolest thing that happened though, was that I got to do my first multi-pitch. (Multi-pitching is when a climber and their partner go up a wall one at a time, alternating until they reach the top of a several story cliff).

Like the rest of the trip, it was highly improvised, unplanned, and unexpected, but surprisingly wonderful. Although I have been climbing for eleven years, this was a new experience for me, to be so terrified, so high up above the entire valley. The view was worth it.

I don’t know what it was about this trip. Why I decided to go, or why I felt so far away from the rest of my world and from school when I did, but it was special.

Sitting around the picnic table those nights eating alphaghetti and shivering quickly brought me back to my summer self, the one who loves ripe strawberries, and rope swings on the beach.

Coming back to Victoria, I did not regret the trip at all. I still aced my midterms, but my mind was refreshed, I felt like myself again, and I had a whole new group of friends that I would spend the whole summer chasing more adventures with. When you look back on your reading breaks, Vikes, I hope you find photographs, not just flash cards. Those are the things you’ll remember, after all, when you’re walking across the stage to get your degree.

P.S. Next time you’re at the gym, drop past the Peninsula Co-op Climbing Wall and say hello to the staff. They’re some of the raddest people that you’ll meet.

Thanks to Joe Fornari for the photos used in this post!

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4 Responses

  1. Erin-Lee McGuire says:

    As someone who teaches, this statement struck a chord with me: “When you look back on your reading breaks, Vikes, I hope you find photographs, not just flash cards. Those are the things you’ll remember, after all, when you’re walking across the stage to get your degree.”

    I keep telling students that there is more to their university years than essays and exams, and yet I am usually surprised when they treat Reading Break as a vacation. Perhaps I need to rethink my expectations! Who knows, maybe next Reading Break, I’ll go on an adventure. Thanks for a great post, Ali.

    • Ali says:

      Hi Erin-Lee,

      Thanks for your comment- you make an interesting point! I think that you bring up a good topic- work-life balance for students. In terms of reading break, I think it really depends on the student and how their semester is going. On that particular reading break, I only had one midterm left after the break, and it was in my easiest class. As a very diligent (and often overstressed student), I found that in this instance it was actually a healthier choice for me to have time off and go away rather than overstudying for that one test. However, other reading breaks I have buckled down and studied/written papers the whole time. So I think it’s really situation-dependent, however this post is kind of a reminder to those who are very academically-inclined that it is okay to take a break sometimes too. Some of us need a bit of a reminder to have more fun with school as well as just the academics! And I think reading break can be a good opportunity for that.

  2. Kieran McClenahan says:

    Hey I really loved the article, the climbing looked awesome! I have a bit of an off topic question and I am hoping you can help me as I am having trouble finding answers on the website. I saw you are in the recreation and health program, I am super interested in it and am applying to UVIC this year. But it is a second year program and I am not sure what to apply to in my first year, any help is appreciated. Thanks!

    • Ali says:

      Hi Kieran,

      Yes, it’s a great program! I didn’t even find out about the program until the end of my first year, so you are well ahead of the game! Most people register in general social sciences, area undecided. That allows you to take as many courses as you want, including the prerequisites you need to apply for recreation and health. If I were you, I would look at the link below and register for the recommended classes for “year one,” as you need most of those as prerequisites to apply into the program. It’s also important to mention that it is a small program, so they only let in around 30 students per year. As well as a fairly relaxed in person interview, they primarily look at academic standing. If I were you, I would try to achieve a fairly high GPA in first year (around an A- or higher) to increase your chances of getting in. I hope this helps! =) EPHE is a great faculty to be a part of.