The name of the game is balance, for hard-working engineering students

Take a Break program helps student strike a balance

Olga Ivanova - 29 September 2016

(Edmonton) Engineering students can be pretty focused when they hit the books so they were caught a little off guard Wednesday when staff members showed up in a popular study spot with board games, colouring books, Sudoku puzzles, a knitting set, and a video game.

But they were all-in on the idea of putting the books down for a while during the Faculty of Engineering's inaugural Take a Break session.

The idea is to encourage students to find balance between their academic and personal lives-and that taking a break can actually benefit the learning process.

"It's a great idea," said third-year computer engineering student William Nichols, as he rolled a strike on a Wii video game. "It helps everyone de-stress. It's fun. There's a Wii, food, and board games. It's right on campus, you don't have to go to your friend's place to relax. It's perfect."

"I saw a Take a Break sign and thought it would be a good place to hang out," added Daniel Kadatz, a second-year electrical engineering student. He and his friend Paul Solleza were studying in the engineering commons area on the 8th floor of the Donadeo Innovation Centre for Engineering when the Take a Break team started putting out board games and setting up the Wii.

"It's good to take out the aggression with a boxing match," Kadatz added, after knocking out Solleza on the video game boxing ring.

The Take a Break initiative launched by the Faculty of Engineering wellness facilitator Kimberly Stauffer and student services manager Raymond Matthias aims to help engineering students manage their often stressful lives with fun and relaxing activities.

"It has become the norm that many students sacrifice their social life, basically their self-care, because they want to succeed academically," says Matthias of some of the hardships of a student life.

"We want to flip the script and show that you can invest in your academic success by investing in your self-care," said Stauffer.

"With Take a Break, we're teaching students such skills as socializing, embedding fun activities in their routine," adds Stauffer. "Students can choose and learn different activities."

In addition to many health benefits of hitting the pause button in a busy school life, the ability to juggle work and leisure is highly valued by employers.

"People in the industry are saying that undergraduates might not have developed the skills to maintain a healthy work-life balance," says Matthias.

Peter Ji, a second-year electrical engineering student, doesn't have much time to spare. However, taking a break is a must. "I'm taking six courses, the homework and assignments are pretty stressful. Also, I have to review my notes. Sometimes I can't focus. It's really important to take several breaks. It's a chance to get (students) together, to take a break together," he says of the new Faculty of Engineering initiative.

The programming is taking place every other Wednesday in the engieering commons area on the 8th floor of the Donadeo Innovation Centre for Engineering.

"We want to create a culture and a message. The Faculty truly cares about the well-being of the students. The Faculty wants them to be balanced and do well," said Stauffer.