Friday, January 13, 2006

A good place to study, in two languages

[Advice for students.]

Here's a suggestion for the start of the semester: Find a good place to study and make it your own. The more time you spend in that place, the more it will become associated with the work of learning.

A good place to study isn't necessarily one that's comfortable. In his book Creative Reading, the poet Ron Padgett offers a funny account of his teenaged attempt to create a "nirvana" for reading — pillows, background music, a Do Not Disturb sign, cold drinks, and cookies. The only problem was that he ended up falling asleep.

Good places to work are as various as individual students. If you like quiet, find a lesser-used area of the library. The bound periodicals or the A and Z stacks (if your library uses Library of Congress Classification) might be likely places to start. If silence is deafening, look for a livelier setting. If your dorm room would be a perfect place except for the noise in the hallway, try an ambient sound from iSerenity to mask the distractions.

When I'm not working at home, my favorite spot to work is a table on the third floor of my university library. I've been working at this table for so long that I've come to think of it as my own. There's room to spread out books and papers (much more room than in a professorial carrel), and the public computers are far enough away that checking my e-mail isn't a great temptation. The nearby books, mostly on urban renewal, are not a browser's paradise. There is little to do at this table but drink bottled water and work.

When I'm walking to this table, I sometimes think about all the work I've already done there. That history itself makes this table a place where I'm likely to get stuff done. While the semester is young and full of new possibilities, find a place that helps you get stuff done too.

[Renzai, a Japanese student, asked to translate this piece. You can now read "A good place to study" in Japanese via the link below. Renzai has also provided a link to an image file of the translated text (for browsers that cannot display Japanese characters). Thanks, Renzai!]

勉強しやすい場所 [A good place to study]

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