The campus of Vancouver Island University is earily quiet at six in the morning on cool fall day. A few dreary eyed studentsmeander around, clutching their coffee mugs as if for protection from the drops of water the prevous night’s rainstorm has left on the trees, roofs, and railings. On days like this, the stairs that reach from the student’s union pub to the aquaculture buildings seem endless, disappearing into the mist. Likewise, the swirling particles shear off parts of buildings, making it seem as if one is standing in a shoebox diorama. It should be light by now, as the students wander to their classes, but the thick black clouds keep the world locked in a seemingly perpetual twilight.
Days like this are common in the pacific northwest, but as the doors of the university library swing open, one can catch a glimpse into a different world. Inside, a medly of people bustle about their buisness, from jostling for position in the Starbucks lineup, to sleeping under a desk with their friends’ textbooks as a pillow, to furiously scribbling equations amid a pile of crumpled paper, all within a few square metres. Row after row of bookshelves and blinking computers draw the eye deeper into the building and the virtually unlimited knowledge within. Tucked away in the furthest and highest corners of the building, the shelves give way to tables and chairs, as a forest does to a meadow of wildflowers, the dreary world outside all but forgotten in a wilderness of technologically created light, warmth, and possibility.
By early afternoon, small rays of sunshine lance holes in the clouds, and the world explodes in amyriad of colour as the drops that still cling to every smooth surface shatter the light into thousands of miniscule rainbows, almost too small to see unless one was to look for them. Of course, nobody is looking at the moment. Hundreds of students and faculty mill about, some heading to class, others eating food or socializing, and still others are heading home to study or take a well earned nap. The stairs stretching up the mountainside no longer seem so unmanagable, as daylight and the energy that comes with it bring the upper and lower extemities into sight.
Inside the classroms and leacture halls, people are hard at work learning and teaching. Pens and pencils scratch away on rough paper, and problems are solved through dedication and resillance. Some of the students are only just beginning their days, and others struggle to stay awake for their last class as they recall an ill-advised study on human alchohol tollernce that they conducted the previous night.
By the time the sun has fallen behind the mountain and a damp chill has again swept up from the ocean, campus is again quiet. Most students and faculty have gone home for the night, and only the steadfast remain. Again retreating from the dreary world outside, they congregate in warm buildings for evening classes, to study, and to unwind. The student’s union pub becomes a lively place, with groups debating the likely outcome of an upcoming spaceflight, who has the better english professor, or why on earth the person who won the last game of pool bought the latest round of drinks.
Throughout the day, students at Vancouver Island University are faced with dozens of options for how to use the space around them. Do they want to use a library computer to watch Netflix? Do they want to curl up in a hidden corner of an already hidden student lounge and take notes from a textbook? Or do they want to sprawl out on a long table in the cafeteria and jump between homework from seven different courses? Each student of course has different desires and priorites, but many have in their mind claimed spaces that, to them is a place to persue these.
Because every person seeks out space with a unique goal in mind, people with similar goals tend to – to some degree – seek out similar spaces. In my personal experience, I’ve encountered far more like-minded people, and indeed made more friends, while looking for a space to study than anywhere else in my life. People who share my passion for geology and science certianly are more likely to take advantage of open lab hours in the earth science bulding than people who aren’t. Likewise, people who enjoy socializing and lively discussion while they study are natrually going to tend towards locations such as the pub, wheras those who prefer quiet and uninterrupted time are going to tend towards a quieter location such as a solo study desk in the library.
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