A guide to West Campus' Best Study Spots
By Maya Pandey
Finals season is upon us, as much as we all hate to admit it. Gone is the peaceful bliss of Thanksgiving, far is the freedom of Winter Break, and in front of our very eyes is the dreaded two week period in between, which consists of spending every hour of free time in the cold depths of Perkins. All there’s left to do is to buckle down with your favorite cup of coffee and find somewhere secluded to pore over your textbooks - ideally, somewhere that isn’t the library you’ve been to a million times, or maybe somewhere with a nice view. And to that end, I introduce to you all my favorite study spots around Duke’s West Campus. These spaces are tried and true, certified to maximize productivity and help retain your will to stay in school. Some are unknown by most, others are packed every Sunday morning, but each of these spots have made studying just a little more bearable for me.
Edens study rooms:
Tucked away in the backyard of West Campus are the Edens study rooms. Since their distance from the main quad shelters them from too much attention, these spots are perfect for holing up in a room for hours with all your necessities in reach. Located past Pitchforks, leading into Edens Quad, is an arched building with glass windows revealing the conference room, a few smaller study rooms, and even a game room (or so I’ve heard). Pitch and Bella Union are close by, stocked with enough snacks and coffee to get you through a full day of work, and there’s even a massage chair in one of the rooms to recover from hunching over your laptop for hours on end. This secluded spot has everything you need for a full, productive day of studying.
Keohane study room:
To be able to access the above facilities but work in the company of other students, look no further than the Keohane study room, located on the third floor of the McLeondon Tower. The Keohane study room is sandwiched between Pitchforks and Bella Union Café, and you can take the elevator from any of these locations to access it. Filled with comfy couches and plenty of seating, it’s the perfect place to study with friends or find comfort in being surrounded by fellow students while studying alone. The room is also packed with all the resources one could need to get their work done, including printers and desktops.
The E-quad is home to many convenient study spaces, including my favorite, the Fitzpatrick Center. Fitz’s three story atrium has no lack of desks and outlets, making it the perfect simple spot to plug in and get work done. The atrium is a silent study space, providing motivation from social pressure of being surrounded by other hard working students, without any of the distractions. What’s more, on the first floor of Fitz you can find Twinnie’s Cafe, serving delicious food and drinks, including hot paninis and Starbucks Coffee. The cozy booths and homey vibe of Twinnie’s is the closest feeling to working in a coffee shop you’ll be able to find on West Campus.
Next up is the Sanford School, almost too familiar to any Public Policy student, but unknown to many others. The Sanford School is located on Towerview Road, just down the street from Wilson Gym. The architecture of this building is admittedly confusing and is reminiscent of the moving Grand Staircase from Harry Potter. However, each set of stairs leads you to a small balcony-esque study spot with comfy seating and tons of space. The top floor has several conference rooms for group study as well. Of course, this study spot would not be complete without food and coffee close by; luckily, this is provided by the Sanford Saladelia Café, which makes one of the best matcha lattes I’ve ever had.
On the way to Sanford but not quite as far, is the Duke Wellness Center. The Wellness Center is one of the most beautiful and peaceful buildings on Campus. Each floor is sprinkled with a few booths and desk spaces, but the true charm of the building is its big glass windows, which bring in plenty of natural light, and reveal a beautiful view of the Chapel. Next to the Wellness Center is its meditation garden, where benches and the famous egg chairs provide a tranquil space to sit outside and meditate or get some work done. If you’re ever in need of a study break, the wellness center offers many services, including yoga, meditation, art classes, and various workshops as well. The Center is located close to WU, which makes up for its lack of food and coffee options. To get there, walk past Penn Pavilion and the Pharmacy to the big glass building.
Most of my recommendations are for places outside of the library, where not everyone knows to flock during finals season, but one I couldn’t exclude is the third floor bridge between the Perkins and Bostock libraries. Next to each of its tables are big windows which bring in natural lighting and a beautiful view of the quad. Unlike the rest of the third floor, it's usually never too loud, and if it ever is, the Carpenter reading room, a silent study hall, is right next door. Of course, Perkins cafe is just a few floors down, with food and caffeine. The only downside to this beautiful location is its usual lack of availability. But, bright and early on a Sunday morning with the sun shining and a few of your friends to motivate you, this is the perfect spot to get some light work done.
Foster Street Cafe:
If you’re drowning in work and need a break from campus, Foster Street Café, in downtown Durham, is the best coffee shop to visit. The food and drinks are tasty and the atmosphere is warm and bright, creating a comfortable and productive environment for working all day. There are many options for seating, including a private room for group study and space to work outdoors. The café is also close to a variety of restaurants for lunch or dinner, and most importantly, the aux never disappoints. If you’re able to get off campus for a little bit and need to get some serious work done I would recommend spending the day at this café.
Located in the Nicholas School of the Environment, Grainger Hall is my most recent find, and has quickly become my favorite place to study on campus. This building is a trek from the main quad, but is definitely worth the walk for those looking to dedicate the day to studying. Inside the building is five floors worth of desks, booths, and study spots, chock full of natural lighting and big, leafy house plants. There are private study rooms and mini-atriums scattered around the building, allowing plenty of spaces to work inside with a view or outside in the fresh air. The crown jewel of Grainger Hall, however, is its beautiful rooftop, brimming with greenery and a view of the Chapel. This building is the perfect place to be productive while enjoying the last few days of beautiful Durham weather.
Finals week is scary for everyone. I for one am guilty of isolating myself in my dorm room, not wanting to leave my bed to avoid all the work I have to do. But when the stress gets overwhelming, I find that exploring a new building on campus or meeting up with my friends in a cozy study room can spark some much needed productivity. In the two years that I’ve lived and studied on West Campus, these are the spots I have found to help me escape the stress of my classes while still completing my schoolwork. Maybe these spots will help you romanticize studying for finals, or reveal a part of campus you’ve never explored. But above all, my hope is that they make your last weeks of the semester just a little more bearable.