On-campus UT-Austin students debate whether exam prep at home will be productive

Zoe Tzanis

When Fariha Irfan arrived on campus a month after the first day of school, she felt no first-day jitters or excitement. She was full of regret. 

After spending more than a month taking her classes at home, Irfan thought living on campus would be a relief. But when she arrived, she realized it wasn’t what she had hoped for. She wasn’t sure she wanted to be here. 

Living alone in San Jacinto Residence Hall, Irfan said she felt isolated and unmotivated. As an out of state student from Alabama, she had a difficult time making friends and building connections with classmates. 

“I was feeling trapped, studying in my room all day,” biochemistry freshman Irfan said. “At home, I had my own office, so I felt like I made the wrong choice coming on campus.”

With Thanksgiving approaching, Irfan said the decision to stay home after the holiday was a no-brainer. As of now, she won’t return to campus until the spring semester begins Jan. 19. 

University Housing and Dining said students living on campus have the option of either returning home after Thanksgiving break or staying on campus until Dec. 17, when the fall semester officially ends. If students stay home after Thanksgiving, they will “receive an adjustment to their housing bill” for the remainder of the semester. 

Students currently living on campus are debating whether spending time with family after Thanksgiving will outweigh the struggle of taking final exams from home.


Though Irfan said she is happy to return home, she said she’ll miss using on-campus libraries and study spaces. Since exploring spaces outside of her dorm, Irfan said campus has started to feel a bit more like home, and she’s grown to love it. 

While she believes studying in Alabama will likely be more productive for her, some students who plan to stay home for the holiday season have the opposite concern. 

Neuroscience freshman Emma Babaian said staying home in Sugar Land, Texas, after Thanksgiving made the most sense for her and her family. 

“I have immunocompromised family members and going back and forth doesn’t make much sense,” Babaian said.

While Babaian said she’s excited to spend time with family, she thinks it’ll be difficult to study at home.

“I think it’ll be way harder,” Babaian said. “I’m actually kind of concerned about my testing environment at home.”

Biology freshman Cara Fonken said while saving money was a factor, she is choosing to stay home after Thanksgiving break to see family. 

“I want to be able to see my grandmother and not worry about the possibility of giving her COVID,” Fonken said. “Now, I can have a transition period of staying away from her, quarantining for some time, and then I can spend as much time with her as possible, which I’ve really wanted to do for a while.”

However, Fonken is worried about how productive she will be studying for exams at home. 

“Studying in my dorm room has been pretty distracting,” Fonken said. “But, when I’m on campus, I have a routine. It helps when I go to the Life Science Library in the UT Tower to study.”

At home, she said she expects to get easily distracted, so she plans to make a study schedule: work a few hours each day and avoid cramming at all costs. 

“It’s gonna make me really happy to see my family, especially my grandmother,” Fonken said. “However, when everyone around me, friends, classmates are studying, it motivates me to get organized and work hard. I think I’m really gonna struggle without that environment.”