The Better Semester

By Jacob Owen Sawyer


A new year has begun, and with it an entirely new semester. After an all-too-brief winter break, classes have inevitably started once again. Syllabi have been read and ignored, and the first samosas of a new term have been sold. While many may have mixed feelings about the start of a new semester, I am of the opinion that these new beginnings should be celebrated, simply because I believe that the winter semester is always the better one.

Hear me out. Technically, to figure out which is best, there are three semesters to compare: Fall, winter, and summer, the three chunks into which the academic year is divided at McGill (in that order). However, seeing as the vast majority of the student body does not take classes in the summer, and that the last place anybody should be during the summer is at school, I am going to disregard that semester entirely. It doesn’t count.

That leaves fall and winter semesters, which together form the conventional academic year. Admittedly, both have their merits and particularities, but in my opinion, when all things are considered, the outcome is hard to dispute.

First things first, let’s discuss the one surefire Montreal conversation starter: the weather. Obviously, there is no doubt that the weather in September and even October is more pleasant than anything we from January through April. Despite this, I would argue the weather trends over the course of the semester are just as important to consider. Although the weather in the fall starts of quite nice, the days steadily get darker and colder until the bitter, wintry climax of finals. On the other hand, the weather early in the new year can be quite intolerable, but the days only get better and brighter right up to the end. I think the comforting knowledge that the weather is always improving, rather than the dreary and depressing alternative, is preferable.

Further, the slow progression of the fall semester may lead to the holiday season, true, but it is a holiday season contained in an insufficiently long two-week winter break. I think all students can agree that four solid months of hard work warrant a more lengthy respite than that. Before you know it, it’s right back to class. The reward for the completion of the winter semester, conversely, is the sunshine and freedom of summer.

And on the subject of holidays: well, they aren’t exactly distributed equally. In the fall, students get one day for Thanksgiving and another for Labour Day, which usually falls far too early in the year to be fully appreciated. But (for the time being), the only semester with a Reading Week is the winter, a glorious and well-deserved five days off typically split between February and March. In addition to that, the winter semester includes a generous four-day weekend for Easter, which falls just before the start of finals. Talk about a spoil of riches.

Although I believe the argument laid out here should be quite convincing, ultimately, semester preference is a matter of taste. And as of writing this, most of us have one semester to go for this year, all the same. Enjoy this frigid add-drop while it lasts. I think we can appreciate it all the more having so recently been through the hellfire of finals. Even as this semester unavoidably gets tough and the dreaded midterm season starts once again, take comfort in the fact that (arguably) the harder, worse semester is already behind you.


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