Pancakes, ducks and dogs: student stress busters during finals

With the first semester of the year coming to a close, Penn students are preparing for long days and nights of studying for final exams. But they also will be squeezing in time for fun, food and creative ways to relieve stress.

To fuel up and recharge, residents of some College Houses will be treated to a midnight pancake breakfast, a late night brownie break or a home-cooked dinner buffet, all prepared by faculty and staff. Penn President Amy Gutmann also plans to host students for an evening holiday study break at her home with refreshments and snacks.

Food is the common factor in most of the stress-reducing events during Reading Days and finals week, but there are some other creative ways to deal with exam pressure. For example, residents of Fisher-Hassenfeld College House can score rubber duck good-luck charms from House Dean April Herring. They can choose from rock star ducks, doctor ducks, lifeguard ducks and others. Why a duck? Herring says she came up with the idea a couple of years ago, hoping the yellow quackers would bring good fortune. And for some students they have.

“Once, during finals, I was walking down Locust Walk, and a student ran up to me and reached into her purse and pulled out her duck. She told me she had her duck with her for her final, and she thinks it brought her good luck," Herring says. "Another student informed me she took it to her Vet school interview and got in."

If toy animals don't do the trick, maybe real ones will. At Rodin College House students will be visited by VetPets therapy cats and dogs organized by Penn's School of Veterinary Medicine. And students who want deeper relief for overstressed muscles can get therapeutic massages through the University's Office of Health Education.

For those seeking an even deeper escape from reality, Riepe College House will host a “Festivus“ celebration in honor of the fictional non-denominational holiday made popular by the television show “Seinfeld.” During the festivities, students will be able to purge tension by participating in satirical events such as “Feats of Strength” and the ever-popular “Airing of Grievances.”

Originally published on December 9, 2009