The insider's guide to the Jerome Fisher Program at the University of Pennsylvania

M&T Study Breaks: a Microcosm of What it Means to be an M&T

It’s Sunday afternoon and I’m a good 18 hours and 1600 lines of code into a CIS 240 assignment. The progress, although measurable, is slow and, admittedly (tragically), rattled with compilation and runtime errors. In this day sentenced to debugging, there is one bright spot: M&T Study breaks.

Every other Sunday during the academic year, the M&T Student Board reserves a mid-sized lecture room, acquires food ranging from healthy snacks to not-so-healthy desserts, and invites the M&T community to congregate. We’re lucky enough to have companies, like Palantir, who often sponsor these breaks, financing the food and logistics.

These breaks give much to look forward to, even during the most challenging weeks. I enter a room greeted by great food (on one occasion in particular, hummus, chips, bread, meats) and a group of M&Ts. I always take a portion of this time to chat, eat, and rest my mind before returning to the assignment at hand. This “slow down” practice is important in maintaining my clarity amidst challenging assignments and a tight schedule. M&T study breaks have proven the ideal ecosystem to distress and regroup. Notably, their impact extends well beyond this two-hour period.

On Sunday afternoons, stress is generally reaching a peak: assignments, projects, and tests seem disproportionately more immediate than they did the previous Friday. Everyone is planning their coming week to stay on top of their respective workloads. In this context, the fittingly timed study breaks serve as meaningful reminders that the M&T community is defined by its consistency and closeness. Everyone there is struggling with assignments, but gain a lot from engaging with friends and eating some (very much needed) snacks. It’s an open space to work, talk, and relax. But above all, it serves as a welcoming sanctuary where everyone gets exactly what they need out of it.

Though I didn’t complete as much work over these two hours as I would have in the quiet study room two floors above, I got something better. I was able to talk to upperclassmen about how they also suffered through CIS 240, discuss the state of March Madness brackets with my M&T 2020 peers, learn from a visiting entrepreneur about his young hedge fund, and get a step closer to deciding whether guacamole or hummus is the better dip. During my time these two hours, I may not have checked many things off my to-do list, but they’re the most mentally productive hours I’ll spend all week.

This points to the power of the M&T community. We are all united by deep passions for innovation in tech and business. We are analytical, entrepreneurial, and highly-driven. Most importantly, we value learning and learn the most from each other. Our two-hour, biweekly study breaks are fantastic opportunities for extended learning from within the M&T community itself.

So, you can bet you’ll see me at the next study break —talking to M&Ts, eating food, and perpetuating a long night of work—all of which are good things. Just some better than others.

 Cameron Cabo is a computer science major concentrating in business analytics and management, entrepreneurship and innovation. A member of the Class of 2020, Cameron plans to work in product and tech management after graduation, striking a positive work-life balance to explore within and outside of his job. Of the M&T community, he said: “M&Ts form the most driven community I’ve ever been a part of. There is an incredible diversity of goals and interests and, as a result, there is always more to learn and discover.” You can see what Cameron is working on at cameroncabo.com.

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