Puzzles on campus
Caltech, like any other school, can be stressful. Psets pile up every week, and lectures teach advanced concepts that require effort to understand. Amidst the academic stress everyone is subject to at Caltech, it is important for students to find a way to relieve their stress and spend time off books and psets.
A lot of students on campus would choose to be part of social scenes at Caltech, spending time with friends and attending small parties hosted by peers in their houses to achieve that work-life balance. However, for those who want a bit of personal time away from people and work, Caltech provides great options around its campus for stress relief: puzzles.
Doing puzzles was never a huge hobby for me. I would buy puzzles as souvenirs every time I visit an art gallery or a museum, but I would never even finish putting them together. But this summer, I happened to run into some puzzles that were left on the work tables in the corner of the third floor of Chen Neuroscience centre, while I was working on my SURF project. My code wasn’t working as I expected, and I decided to give myself a little break. While my friends played chess at the table next to the work tables, I started taking apart the fruit basket puzzle that someone had completed.
Ever since then, I have been working on it little by little every time I go to the third floor of Chen to work on my SURF. It works great as a stress-reliever: it takes my mind completely off my SURF project and the issue that I am stuck on, because I am constantly thinking about picking the right piece for the space I am looking at or analysing the shades of colours on each puzzle piece to estimate where in the whole picture would that piece fit into. Sometimes I get so absorbed that I make the mistake of spending too much time on the puzzle. Oftentimes, I find it helpful to take a break and work on some hobbies or something else that would take up your mind during SURF, as it allows me to be more productive afterwards. It also keeps me mentally sane: instead of raging over a problem that I am stuck with, I have a chance to refresh my mind and look at it at a totally different angle with a calmer mindset 10 minutes later. For most of the time, giving your mind a break can solve the problem.
If you happen to be on Caltech campus and you are stressed about something, whether that be academic or non-academic, I greatly recommend trying out some of our puzzles on campus. There are multiple puzzles on the first floor of Sherman Fairchild Library and the third floor of Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Neuroscience Research building. Here are some of the photos of the puzzles in those locations:
These are puzzles in the Sherman Fairchild Library.
And this is the puzzle I’ve been working on in the Chen building.
If you are not a huge fan of puzzles, you can take part in a chess game in the Chen. On the second and third floor of Chen, there are chess boards that have games going on that everyone can partake in. Basically, there is a note that indicates whose turn it is (either white or black), and if you happen to walk over to the table and see the board, you can move the chess piece to wherever you want and flip the paper for someone else to play the next turn. I feel like this is a very heartwarming way of being part of the community as well as giving yourself a nice study break.