Free skates, movies, arts and crafts, snack stations let students catch upon studies, take breather before semester’s final push

And, on the Wellness Days, they slept.

Norwich University’s students have managed a lot this semester, including schedules crammed with academic challenges — projects, papers, reading — athletics, special events (the International Association of Military Academies conference, the Military Writers’ Symposium) and march-down visits to hear four-star U.S. Army Gens. Paul E. Funk II and Michael X. Garrett.

Last week, for a breather, the university canceled Wednesday and Thursday classes and offered a plethora of renew-and-recharge activities — arts and crafts, Lego building, open skates, lawn games, Wiffle Ball, yoga, movies — and free snacks.

“(Wellness Days) have been really good; it’s really helped me a lot, I feel much better today.”Jonathan Simms, rook, Norwich University Corps of Cadets

Lanz Estrella, a sophomore computer science major, was on Kreitzberg Library’s fourth floor, near the Academic Achievement Center’s office and a free hot chocolate bar stocked with whipped cream, miniature marshmallows and other toppings.

“I’ve been doing some chores and stuff,” he said. “Yesterday, I did laundry. … Honestly, I don’t remember what else I did.”

Estrella wasn’t drinking hot chocolate the morning of Nov. 11; he hadn’t expected treats. But he was drinking in calm.

Estrella, a civilian student, said he’d make his remaining downtime productive, visiting the Career and Internship Center and donating blood at Plumley Armory’s drive, organized by the Center for Civic Engagement’s Civic Scholars and the Red Cross of Northern New England.

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Norwich University students convene for an informal study group near the Academic Achievement Center’s Kreitzberg Library office on Nov. 11, 2021, during Respite Day. (Photo by Matthew Crowley/Norwich University.)

Declan McClellan, a freshman criminal justice major, was also near the hot chocolate bar, finishing Spanish language homework. As a Corps of Cadets rook, he was grateful for time to check on fellow rooks’ well-being and forgo alarm clocks.

“As a rook, you don’t get a lot of opportunities to get a good night’s sleep,” he said.

In a second-floor Schneider Hall classroom Thursday morning, rooks Jacob Ryburn and Andy Liriano, both mechanical engineering majors, were noshing on free Belgian waffles and buttered popcorn. (The delicious smells trailed down the corridors).

They’d used the respite time for work — Ryburn on a research paper on social-media privacy, Liriano getting tutored in calculus and chemistry — and diversion —watching “The Shawshank Redemption” at Mack Hall on Wednesday and peeking at a Looney Tunes movie on an iPad on Thursday.

They also rested.

“I slept till 9,” Liriano said. “My roommate got up early, but I stayed in bed. It kind of felt amazing.”

On the Wise Campus Center’s lower level Thursday morning, a gaggle of students created sand art, crowding near deep bowls holding a rainbow of crystals, turquoise, red, yellow, orange. The activity was creative and practical, repurposing glasses left over as favors from a bygone Regimental Ball.

Circles in the sand

Katelynn Albert, a sophomore nursing major in the Corps, spotted the art making from the Dunkin’ Donuts queue.

“I was like, ‘I kind of want to make sand art,’” she said, scooping blue sand into her clear glass.

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Guillermo Carague, a sophomore marketing management major, shows the compass he built from Legos on Nov. 11 during Norwich University’s Wellness Days in Chaplin Hall. (Photo by Matthew Crowley/Norwich University.)

Angelina Kelliher, a sophomore health science major in the Corps, said she used Wednesday’s Wellness Day to attend swim team practice and study for biology.  Thursday, she rested.

“Today, I got some extra sleep in … I got up at 8:30,” she said.

Another sand artist, Jonathan Simms, a rook majoring in communications, said he was glad to breathe, having struggled to adjust to college life, rookdom and in-person learning after months of coronavirus pandemic-forced remote learning. He said he used his respite to email professors, grind out assignments and rethink time management.

“It’s been really good; it’s really helped me a lot, I feel much better today,” Simms, an Atlantan, said, using a chopstick to layer green, coral, red and yellow sand in his glass. “I’m going spend the rest of today enjoying the last day to be kind of free.”

Norwich University Assistant Student Activities Director Crystal Drown, who was supervising the sand art, called the Wellness Days a well-attended success. On Wednesday, she said, more than 100 people had made tie-dye COVID-19 masks at Wise; dozens more would probably come Thursday afternoon to visit therapy dogs — probably golden retrievers — at the Counseling and Wellness Center’s Kreitzberg Library offices.

“It’s important to have a respite day because everyone needs an opportunity just to relax and feel human again,” Drown said. “We know our students are here, we’re pushing them to be great, strong leaders, but everyone needs to learn that every now and then you need to take time for yourself.”

Meanwhile, McClellan said that with the rest, he’d press.

“Right now, it’s just a matter of persevering through next week,” he said. “then we get to go home for Thanksgiving.”

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