My fifth encounter with Spring Fling (including my Penn Preview weekend) went much like the first four. In short, it couldn’t have gone any better. My last Fling as a student brought friends, fun but also finale, ending on a bittersweet note.
Fling is arguably the one tradition that resolutely binds the student body together. And for good reason. Fling accomplishes something that is awfully hard to find elsewhere during most of the academic year. It offers full, unbounded relief from stress and we embrace it like no other.
In a ranking of the most stressful colleges, compiled last year by The Daily Beast, Penn placed 4th right behind Columbia University, Stanford University and Harvard College. But we don’t need rankings to tell us that our lives are stress-ridden.
We experience it every May, once finals are completely over and we wake up to experience a completely task-free day, week and month. (That is, until the stress of a summer internship sets in).
Stress at Penn has more to do with students than the institution itself. We’re the ones who decided to join various organizations, promote different causes, decide to go for a second major and work harder for a higher grade.
That’s why Fling feels so incredible and necessary. It gives us a temporary reprieve from stress, allowing us to power on with a little more vigor and desire. The annual exodus to the Quad accomplishes this like no other.
Perhaps it’s those living in the Quad who are likely to feel the most relief from Fling. A survey of 200,000 college freshmen in 2010 showed the average student is feeling more stressed, anxious and in some cases, more depressed than ever before.
The New York Times, in reporting on the survey last year, also noted the emotional well-being of incoming students was at its lowest since the study began 26 years ago.
Stress is tough to deal with because it can appear in so many different forms — some obvious and some subtle. Some forms of stress are more serious than others and require counseling and professional services to alleviate the pressure.
Sources of stress are not quite as mysterious. Typical contributors include grades, family issues, and as the report noted, the economy and financial matters.
While Fling doesn’t come close to solving these issues, it allows students to enjoy aspects of college that are effective antidotes to stress.
Whether you flung in the Quad, at a block party or at an alternative location — you were given an excuse to have fun and forget about pending exams, at least for a 48-hour window.
Social support — which is really what Fling exemplifies — is a common mechanism to counteract stress. During the school year, people are less likely to get together. Pulling all-nighters at Van Pelt is usually a solitary activity.
But there are other, less obvious ways to incorporate this support system into our final month of school.
Pottruck Fitness Center offers a “Stress Relief Week” later this month, which promotes group activities such as yoga to help students cope with pressures and anxiety. Group exercise goes hand in hand with leading a healthy lifestyle — another beneficial way to combat stress.
Stress, however, isn’t exclusive to college students. A few of my friends who graduated last year noted how great it felt to be back for the weekend and break out of their job-induced stress. Next year, I’m looking forward to experiencing this sort of relief when I hopefully come back to Penn during Fling as an alumnus.
Now that we head back to our “regular” lives — and deal with the post-Fling depression that will hang like a rain cloud over campus for the next few days — I’ll bring some memories of Spring Fling 2012 to Van Pelt when it comes to shack up for my last round of finals.
Brian Goldman is a College senior from Queens, N.Y. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. The Gold Standard appears every Monday.
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