A grad student's guide to the best study spots at Brandeis

November 08, 2019

Madhura Shringare, International Business School MBA’20, studying in G-Zang

By Christine Rostampour, MA COEX'20

As a first-year international graduate student at Heller last fall, I would often find myself scouring the library for hours to find a spot suitable to study or write a paper. It is difficult to believe that a year has passed since then; less surprisingly is that after months of exploring the campus, now I know better than to just resort to the library for every purpose. One of the keys to effective studying is finding the right location and setting. In fact, research has shown that not only a good setting can significantly impact your learning outcomes, but varying the environment in which you study would also contribute to the betterment of recollecting and analyzing information. 

With that in mind and as we are buckled down for midterms, I would like to share a list of the lesser-known study spaces available on Brandeis University’s campus that I or my peers have discovered. It turns out whether you need to pull a caffeine-fueled overnight study or have tens of pages that you need to absorb in silence, whether you seek social activities on the side of your work or need a break from it all, there are hidden gems of spaces available on campus which you can use. Here are our favorite spots:

1. The Graduate Student Center

Students and Staff at a Lunch & Learn Session at the Graduate Student Center

From study equipment such as computers, scanners, and printers to a refrigerator, microwaves, a coffee machine, a television, game consoles, and free snacks, the Graduate Student Center has it all. Located on the first floor of Kutz Hall, right across from the Registrar’s office, it is often the place where activities organized by the Graduate Student Affairs (such as movie nights on Fridays and Dinner Connections every other Wednesday) are held.  

There are usually between 10-15 students studying, discussing classes, or engaging in leisure activities in the room. During events, however, the room sometimes hosts up to 50 students at the same time!

Jeffri Navarro, MA SID/MS’20, who visits the Grad Center frequently, calls it “a space with everything a grad student would need: good friends, snacks, and study spots. It's the first space that comes to mind when we'd like to socialize with our peers. Also the first that comes to mind when the inevitable ‘Where can I get free food?’ comes to mind as well. Plus, the array of computers alongside a table perfect for team-meetings makes for a chatty albeit productive study space too,” he says.

2. G-Zang Study Room (The Leo Gerstenzang Library of Science)

Madhura Shringare, International Business School MBA’20 at the entrance to G-Zang

“I love G-Zang library because it is one of the quietest study areas on campus,” says Madhura Shringare, International Business School MBA’20. “It’s a hidden gem which is several times quieter than the library. Plus, there’s free coffee and a small kitchen here than I can use. It’s a place where I go to gather my thoughts before a test or simply to prepare for one.”

Located in the Science Complex, the Leo Gerstenzang Science Library houses print resources in the sciences, the Genetic Counseling program, and large science classrooms—but that’s not all that there is. The building also provides a quiet place for study, also run by the Graduate Student Association. Also similar to the previous space, this room has the resources needed for coffee-fueled students. Contrary to the GSC, however, it is a quiet study space, making it perfect for when you need to prepare for exams, or when writing a paper.

3. The Commuter Lounge at Shapiro Campus Center

Shapiro Campus Center

On the third floor of the Shapiro Campus Center, two stories above the Brandeis gift shop, is a Commuter Lounge run by the Department of Student Activities. Both spaces are available upon sending a request email to the department. This room, which features a table workspace, couches, a sink, a small refrigerator, and cupboard space, is available to all students living off campus. All you need to have is your student ID card. Aside from the lounge, there is an extra study space on the second floor of Shapiro with computers and study desks.

You could simply grab a cup of coffee or a snack from the café located on the first floor and head to these spaces during the day. But what differentiates these spaces from most of the ones mentioned before and after, is that they are available 24/7; so if a class or a project is turning you into a night owl, this space can be an option in addition to the library for you. 

4. The Peace Room in Usdan

The Peace Room on the first floor of the Usdan Student Center

I came across the Peace Room when I was taking a class taught by Professor Gordie Fellman and he suggested that we use the space for a group project. 

The Peace Room introduces itself as a “Brandeis community project providing a network and physical space dedicated to empowering individuals on a path toward nonviolence, peacemaking and dialogue.” The room looks vibrant with several drawings and photos on the walls and a colorful carpet covering the floor. There aren’t any chairs in the Peace Room, making it a perfect place for a more relaxed way of reading and working on group projects or for meditation! While the room is available to all who would use it for "peace-building projects", it should be reserved beforehand through Lauren Jordahl or Professor Fellman.

What I liked the best about the space was how we all got to remove our shoes upon entering the room and sat on low cushions on the floor. It instantly changed the dynamics of our group work from a formal discussion to one that was amicable and laid-back, both figuratively and literally speaking.

Bonus: The Meditation Room in the Library

Esther Daniels, MA SID/COEX'20, at the entrance to the Meditation Room

Brandeis Library provides a variety of environments for study, meetings, exhibit, events, and more. But they have not forgotten that students and faculty might need a break from all of these activities at times to make sure that you do not burn out. The Meditation Room in the Goldfarb Mezzanine, near the Library Administration offices is intended for "meditation, prayer, and finding a moment of peace". But this sacred haven is not the easiest of places to find!

Esther Daniels, MA SID/COEX'20, says she wouldn’t have known about the Meditation Room had it not been for her job at the library. “Working on a final papers takes several hours to complete and it sometimes can get really tiring or stressful. That is why I am glad that I learned about the Meditation Room where I can go to for a few moments of peace to regain my energy and be able to focus again on my work with a refreshed mind.”

Esther Daniels, MA SID/COEX'20, meditating