How do YOU battle the stress of finals week?

Some of the ways students fight the tension could leave heads spinning

Finals week is ever a stressful time for students across campus, and the ways they combat the tension, anxiety and emotional strain may leave your head spinning.

Elyse Jackson ’16 finds it therapeutic to play piano at the music center. Jae Jung ’15 hits the squash court and Haram Kang ’16 grabs the video game “League of Legends” for an hour at a time.

But Nachum Serota, Dillon Morris, Karina Gaft and Zahin Huq (all ’14) head to the boxing ring. Now in its fourth year, the Brandeis Boxing Club, which has a listserve of 350 and 50 members who train regularly, is gaining popularity. Finals week only makes it sweeter.

Serota says boxing lets him tap into his inner frustrations.

“The stresses of a college student are so varied and all-encompassing that sometimes you just need to scream and hit something,” says Serota, a biochemistry and neuroscience major. “I love making my muscles ache and having to gasp for breathe. When you box, you can't possibly think about anything else.”

Serota says you have to focus on your hands being up when you throw punches, whether you’re moving your head, and at the same time be aware of your footwork.

“It's this constant struggle for personal perfection that I love,” says Serota, who is the club’s treasurer. “When I step into the ring, it's not necessarily a war against your opponent, it's a war to face your weaknesses and to overcome them.”

Serota grew up training in the Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), which for him have included Brazilian Jujitsu, kickboxing and Muay Thai wrestling.

The club meets Tuesday and Thursday evenings and Saturday mornings at the Nonantum Boxing Club in Newton. They’re trained by Marc Gargaro, who was a finalist in the Heavyweight Division of the 2005 USA Northeast Regional Championship Tournament and a Lowell Golden Gloves semi-finalist in 2007. Practices are funded by the Student Union Finance Board, so membership and practice attendance is free.

“It’s a very invigorating workout,” says Morris, the club’s president. “The amount of cardio and overall stamina that you need to maintain good form while also putting power behind punches is very demanding.”

Morris, who joined the boxing club in his freshman year, was an avid kickboxer throughout high school. A biology major with a minor in classical studies, he will be attending medical school upon graduation through Tufts University’s Early Assurance Program.  He says the club has had a steady influx of new members throughout this semester, primarily through word of mouth.

With the opening of Lindsay Pool the boxing club has been able to install two heavy bags in the mat room, which allows members to practice on days that don’t include formal off-campus training. The boxing club management has also made a big push to hold social events like post workout brunches on Saturday mornings and viewing boxing movies. They’re also looking to attend some local fights to build camaraderie among the club so they’re more than just a bunch of people who work out together.

“I love sparring,” says Dillon. “You can hit the mitts and you can hit the bag, but you ultimately don’t know how well you’ve learned technique until someone is throwing punches back at you.”

Zahin Huq joined the club his sophomore year and hasn’t looked back. There are times that he won’t spar for a few weeks and other times he’ll jump into the ring all three training days.

“It's a very humbling sport, especially when sparring,” says Huq. “When you get into the ring and take a few punches to the face it makes you realize that you're not as awesome as you think you are and that you're just an infinitesimally small part of this universe.”

While Casey Kim, ’16, says she finds relief from the stresses of finals by shopping online for makeup and clothes, Leyna Lee, ‘16 rewards herself with one hour of Korean TV dramas.

“My goal could be anywhere from studying a specific number of chapters or finishing a certain number of pages in an essay. Then that one hour is ‘me’ time where I don't think about anything except being in my happy place. Afterwards, it’s grind time again.”

Karina Gaft ’14 has been dancing and swimming since the age of nine. She is a member of Adagio, Hooked on Tap and the Ballet club. But she says there’s nothing more stress-relieving that punching a heavy-bag, adding that she soon hopes to have the confidence to get into the ring to spar.

“It’s nice knowing that when I go out at night I at least have some sort of background in protecting myself physically,” says Gaft.

Huq says there are a number of reasons why he has kept up with boxing, primarily because “it's just so damn much fun.  Everybody loves hitting things and boxing lets you have that kind of visceral enjoyment but in a controlled and thoughtful manner,” says Huq. “Nothing feels better than pretending that bag is your professor after that brutal midterm.”

Se Jun Lee contributed to this report

Categories: Athletics, Student Life

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