Spending a hard day’s night on campus

A brave Journal writer details the 24 hours she spent on campus with only an iPod and carbohydrates to keep her sane

Fourth-year student Katie Underwood settles in for a night in the JDUC.
Fourth-year student Katie Underwood settles in for a night in the JDUC.

It is 3:15 a.m. in the JDUC on Thursday, January 15. Do you know where your feet are? Because I certainly can’t feel mine.

Many of us have spent extended periods of time on campus, whether to cram for finals, hold meetings or search out a viable wireless connection. But how many of you have dedicated all snacking, social, academic and even shower time to our vast university grounds?

I decided to see if it was really possible to pull an all-nighter on campus. The following is the true account of a fourth-year’s 24 hours spent navigating the not-at-all seedy underbelly of our campus.

10:25 a.m. – The Arrival

On arguably the coldest day of the year thus far, I make my way to campus, complete with an oversized pillow and my Winnie the Pooh blanket in hand. I’m not ashamed. I am about as conspicuous as a seven-year-old headed to a Girl Guide sleepover. Feeling like an impostor in the PEC, I am there to neither sculpt nor stretch myself, but to drop my overnight bag in a locker. I realize I may have forgotten my headphones. Feeling a cold wash of panic come over me, I check my left pocket. My breathing returns to a normal rate when I feel the cord tangled around my keys.

10:45 a.m. – Garden St. Cafe, Botterell Hall

I plop myself down in a sunny chair and effectively end my 4-day stint as a vegetarian with a bacon, egg and cheese bagel. With good food and service, a complimentary cup of pasta and throngs of future doctors in sight, I could consider making this a regular stop.

11:31 a.m. – Agnes Etherington Art Centre

A lovely woman named Jennifer affords me the free admission given to all students but confiscates my only worldly possession, a backpack, before letting me enter the galleries. I knew this voice recorder looked suspicious! I encounter an adorable grade one class on my way from employing what little German I know (none) to translate a video instalment. One rather chubby boy guesses my age and suggests 83. I collect my humble bag and leave.

11:55 a.m. – Grey House, Alternative Library

This little gem is chock full of interesting brochures on everything from fine paper recycling, to sexual and gender diversity and boycotting Canadian seafood. After finishing this morning’s OJ and leafing through a copy of “Towards Anarchism,” I discover seven packets of personal lubricant among the papers. There really is something for everyone here! 12:27 p.m. – Goodes Hall

Among the sea of “Report on Business” readers, I open to Globe Life and read about Obama’s restaurant picks and Howie Mandel’s recent hospitalization for an arrhythmia. I wonder whether they can tell I’m not a regular (they can) and, also, if they can smell my fear. I need to abandon the leathery comfort of this chair before it traps me forever.

2:34 p.m. – Sexual Health Resource Centre

After a healthy lunch of chicken fingers, fries and Coronas at the QP, I visit the SHRC where another friend has office hours. I love the openness of this place so much that I won’t even flinch when I see “guy who bought handcuffs” in BioSci. I help myself to several complimentary buttons.

3:59 p.m. – Ellis Hall

After completing the only real work I had for today in an interview at Health Services, I head to the Civil Engineering Lounge and attempt to contact whoever is in charge of the observatory to secure some intense one-on-one with the Moon. I go straight to voicemail. I feel a little bit sluggish right about now and I’m eyeing a family-sized box of fruit snacks on the table across from me. Be strong, Katie. In my rush to escape the temptation of high-fructose corn syrup, I knock four yearbook pictures off the wall. My most sincere apologies to Civil Engineering classes 2003 to 2006.

4:22 p.m. – Miller Hall

We have a rock museum?! If you’re interested in the cubic structure of Peruvian pyrite or experiencing the sheer enormity of our very own “Welcome Nugget” replica, look no further.

4:40 to 6:30 p.m.

I bounce between a quick stop at the Tea Room, meetings and the Grad Club for dinner. My meals have been so densely packed today that I can safely say this is the first time in, well, ever, that I neglect to finish my dinner. I’ve been here 7.5 hours and I’m a changed woman.

6:47 p.m. – Douglas Library

Despite the fact that I, admittedly, do more people-watching and snoring at libraries than actual work, something about the Harry Potter Room stirs the academic in me.

8:01 p.m. – Morris Hall/Lazy Scholar

Ah, my old stomping grounds. As I’m leaving, an ambitious first-year even tells me to take off my top. I ask “Are you KIDDING me?” There’s no place like home. With the exception of the gendered-bathroom positioning (that mistake was embarrassing) Morris is just as I remember it. But when did Rez Express get a disco-style makeover, complete with chain mail and a red light-up bar?

9:30 p.m. – Oil Thigh Designs

Thanks to the generosity of a few friends, I set up camp at OTD, preparing for a long, chilly night ahead. Thanks to the large plexiglas wall—that I would later grow to loathe—I have a perfect view of the drunken, entertaining Alfie’s overflow while I, as any dedicated nerd would, work on an impending project. 11:45 p.m.

With my hair in a bun, penguin pants and oversized Prince Edward Island cow sweater on, I have become, quite literally, a homeless woman in a glass box. I begin to have second thoughts about my undertaking as a drunken girl laughs maniacally at me. I am Katie’s inflamed sense of rejection.

1:59 a.m.

At the risk of sounding like an elderly woman, have you ever tried to sleep with 500 people grinding to Benny Benassi’s “Satisfaction” in your basement? Because I have. I roll over, grumbling, on my bed made of plastic chairs.

4:27 a.m.

So ... cold.

Everything ... growing dark. Must ... live to ... finish article. After contemplating who I will leave my stereo and TY beanie baby collection to in the event of my almost certain death from hypothermia, I see an ethereal light and feel at peace. Scratch that; It’s a security guard’s flashlight. I dive under a desk for cover.

The morning after:

After indulging in a wonderful carb-laden breakfast at everyone’s favourite waffle house, Ban Righ, I walk, no, skip home. I reacquaint myself with my bed (merciful, pillow-topped bed!) and sleep until three o’clock in the afternoon.

Sleeping (and eating) on the job

After stabilizing my skyrocketing cholesterol and mental faculties with frequent, hefty doses of vegetables and naps, I met with Alistair MacLean, dean of Arts and Science and sleep psychologist, along with Beth Doxsee and Lee Fisher-Goodchild, lifestyle counsellors with Health, Counselling and Disability services, to discuss the implications of a life lived, eaten and slept on campus.

“One thing you hear is that students have a hard time finding healthy food on campus; it’s around but you do have to search it out,” Doxsee said.

“If you only live on some of the energy drinks, coffee with sugar and snacks available, you are likely to get blood sugar spikes; you won’t feel your best and won’t be your best mentally,” she said.

Suggesting students often forgo physical activity because of plummeting winter temperatures, Fisher-Goodchild also highlighted the detrimental effect stress can have on a student’s wellbeing.

“Home is a place where you can let your guard down and relax, control the environment a bit; it’s so much harder to do that when you’re on campus all day,” she said.

“Even if you feel like you need a break, campus can be a pretty stimulating place, and being there all the time would exhaust the body.”

MacLean further stressed a frequently neglected aspect of proper health: a good night’s sleep. Although most of us feel that torrenting Gossip Girl and playing World of Warcraft until 5 a.m. take precedence over getting to our 8:30s on time, MacLean suggested acute sleep loss causes harm we may not be aware of.

“When you’re young, your capacity to cope with less sleep is higher, but in reality, students don’t realize the extent to which their behaviour is degraded by lacking in sleep,” he said.

Besides the expected grogginess, slowed cognition and irritability, small lapses in brain activity, known as ‘microsleeps,’ can occur without our knowledge, leading to a potentially dangerous delay or absence of response to events.

Although the old saying “everything in moderation” is always an attractive solution, the experts advise that peer support and listening to your body are ultimately the most effective way of avoiding unhealthy consequences.

So as you consider laying your head to sleep tonight on your anatomy textbooks on the first-floor of Stauffer, visions of A pluses dancing in your head, think about your bed, cold and lonely at home tonight. Throw out that Red Bull, snuggle up to some celery and do your body good.

—Kate Underwood

All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to journal_editors@ams.queensu.ca.

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.