Greenhouse with hanging plants

How to be the “James Bond” on Hillsdale’s Study Scene

Written by Brynn Elson

It’s the day before finals. You walk into the library and head down to Purgatory, wincing with each squeak of your rain boots. It’s deathly quiet, and you feel like an ogre with your deafening shoes. Every carrel, every desk, every lounge chair is taken. You look at your watch. 8:02 A.M.

You make the long trek back to Heaven, boots squeaking all the way. People look up from their studies to watch you pass. You imagine them mocking you, arriving two minutes too late to stake out a study spot. “Should have planned better,” you can hear them thinking. “You should know better than to come to the library this late the day before finals.”

You have a few options in this situation.

  1. Lurk in Purgatory until someone gets up to go to the bathroom, then steal their spot. (Not recommended.)
  2. Hole up in your dormitory and study for twelve hours straight. (Also not recommended.)
  3. Head to one of the hidden study spots on this list. (Highly recommended!)

It’s unlikely that Hillsdale students will mock you if you turn up late to the library — that’s all in your head, I promise. However, the library does fill up fast during finals week. If you’re looking to avoid people today, I’ve got you covered.

Let’s start in your dorm, on that dreary Reading Day morning. Instead of rushing over to the library, give yourself a bit more time to make coffee and relax. You have time to take a breath now that you’re not competing with half of campus for the same uncomfortable seats in the library.

Your first stop on “Mission: Avoid People” is the greenhouse attached to Strosacker/Dow. The greenhouse is full of (you guessed it!) plants, and there’s a lone table that can seat two to four people, depending on how many textbooks each person brings. Since there’s only one table in the greenhouse, no one else can come in and disturb you. It’ll just be you and the plants. Very zen.

Once you’re tired of the greenhouse (although I don’t know how you could ever get tired of studying to the sounds of photosynthesis . . .), stealthily traverse the fifty meters from the greenhouse to the biology breezeway. Sometimes known as the “bio bridge” or the “skywalk,” this breezeway is an open space that connects Dow to Strosacker. There’s an identical “chem bridge” one floor up. Each space has three or four round tables and tall windows on both sides. These areas are great study spots during the day, because the windows let in the maximum amount of light. More light = more energized student = more effective studying. Though the tables can fill up during school days when students are going from class to class, they’re often deserted on the weekends and evenings. 

“Mission: Avoid People” will be harder in the afternoon, so you will need even more obscure study spots to compensate. Assuming campus is clear of snow this April (don’t laugh; it has happened before), replace your desk with a stone table in one of the Arboretum’s gazebos. The fresh air and change of scenery could help you focus. If the gazebos aren’t your scene, bring a blanket and food for a study picnic. Alternatively, of course, you could bring a lap desk and hide deep in the woods. Do whatever you have to do to stay undercover.

Once you’ve finished communing with nature, check out a booth in the Old Snack Bar. Study here if you want the ease and comfort of a booth, but don’t want the excited, chattery energy of AJ’s. The booths are great because you can spread out your stuff and take spontaneous mid-study-session naps if you get really tired.

After a long, hard day of studying, reward yourself with a drink from Penny’s. Penny’s is normally all hustle and bustle—as the “aesthetic cafe” on campus, it’s often full of customers. If, however, you need to crank out some work on a Friday night (which you’re more apt to do during finals season), Penny’s is pleasantly quiet. They serve drinks until 5:30 p.m. on Fridays, so grab a cappuccino and get studying!

To wrap up your mission, meet up with a few of your fellow antisocial study-holics in a friend’s dorm or dorm study space. I frequently invite people over to my dorm’s kitchen and loft area because it’s very airy and bright. Mauck’s solarium is also a beautiful study spot. If you or your friends have extra seating or comfy rugs, host a dorm study party. This might seem antithetical to the purpose of “Mission: Avoid People,” but it’s important to remember that you’ll probably burn out and/or lose your mind if you study by yourself all day. If you stare at a page long enough, the words will not rearrange themselves into human faces and start talking (if this happens to you, seek help). To have conversations with real humans, take off your spy mask and put the textbooks away for a little while. You’ve earned it.

Further Reading:

Top Five Study Spots

Creating Beautiful Study Spaces

Brynn Elson, ’23, is a biochemistry major with a decent comprehension of the English language. She enjoys drinking coffee, playing the clarinet, and overcommitting to things. When she’s not studying (which is rare), you might be able to find her running (read: getting lost) on the back roads or complaining about Hillsdale’s lack of mountains.

Published in March 2021