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Cafes As Chill Study Spaces

Cafes within the Harvd Square have been profiting from students buying caffeinated drinks to stay up and prepare for final exams and papers.
Cafes within the Harvd Square have been profiting from students buying caffeinated drinks to stay up and prepare for final exams and papers.
By Eliza M. Nguyen, Crimson Staff Writer

Whether they’re working in the dark basement of Dudley House at Cafe Gato Rojo or in the bustling, commercial hangout at one of the two Starbucks in the Square, some students seek alternative study spaces during exam period.

Those who choose cafe settings over libraries say they find the library atmosphere to be stressful during the final weeks of the semester.

Elizabeth H. Thompson ’12 says she enjoys seeing her peers studying around her, but prefers finding company in a space that is more relaxed than a library.

“I like being around people when I study,” she says, sitting inside at Gato Rojo. “Particularly people who aren’t crazy.”

Sipping on a cup of hot tea at the Starbucks in The Garage, Shira B. Kogan ’14 says that she normally doesn’t mind studying in libraries. But she avoids Lamont during finals week to escape the intense environment.

“There’s more of a stress vibe in libraries,” she says. “I like getting tea and working in a cafe.”

Another noted bonus of studying in a coffee shop or dining hall is that food and drinks are readily available.

Shawn G. De Martino ’14 says that his lack of sleep brought him to Starbucks, where he depends on Americanos—a beverage made with hot water and espresso—to keep him awake.

Emma Q. Wang ’12 says she prefers eating foods with carbohydrates because they provide her with fuel for studying.

“Carb loading isn’t just for marathons,” she says, looking up from study notes for her upcoming exam in Ethical Reasoning 11: “Human Rights: A Philosophical Introduction.”

While DeMartino says he thought more students studied in cafes during exam period, employees at local establishments say they have not seen a significant increase in student traffic.

One Starbucks store manager says that the beginning of tourist season coincides with exam period, making it difficult to tell if a sales increase is due to purchases made by students or visitors to Cambridge.

Catherine Zhu ’11, who works at Cafe Gato Rojo, says she has seen fewer students at the Harvard Yard coffee shop.

“[Gato Rojo] is a nice change of pace, but you can’t do real work here,” she says.

While the environment might be more relaxed outside of the library, Zhu also says she thinks the small amount of space and lack of power outlets in the basement cafe prevented students from staying for extended periods of time.

According to the Starbucks manager, the same students who study in the shop regularly during the semester are the ones who come during exam period.

“There’s a kid who comes in here and stays for like five hours a day,” she says.

Still, some students say the intensity of finals period calls for the lively atmosphere of a cafe.

“If I have a large chunk of time, I can spend a whole day in a cafe,” Kogan says. “It’s good if you get in the groove of it.”

—Crimson Staff Writer Eliza M. Nguyen can be reached at

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