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6 Reasons to Study at a Cafe Instead of the Library

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at McGill chapter.

Most of us are pretty attuned to how and where we get our best studying done. Some people need absolute silence and only work well after midnight; others need to be in the middle of a crowded cafe at noon. Many students feel that they can only study well in the library – a statistic that needs no further evidence than the fact that it has become impossible to get a spot in McClennan. For those of you who are getting increasingly discouraged by the study vibe at McGill libraries, here is a list of reasons why you should consider studying at a cafe – who knows, you might be converted into a life-long cafe studier!   

1. Selection of teas, coffees, pastries, and more, right at your fingertips 

Sure, you could bring any of these things from home, but it’s always a nice treat to buy it somewhere, and can be used as motivation. And, most cafes tend to be significantly cheaper than the options found at the library. Another plus? You can get up, order, and pay all while keeping an eye on your stuff, instead of traversing down several flights of stairs to the far-away basement that is the Redpath cafeteria. 

2. It’s important to stay social 

It’s true, sometimes you do need complete silence and isolation to study, but it’s my belief that occasional catch-up sessions and gossip-fests with friends is a great way to stay sane during exam period (and anytime, really). If you can keep distractions to a minimum, then it’s great to sit at a cafe table with a friend and have conversations every now and then, rather than having furtive, whispered conversations at the library, or making special plans to take a break together just to talk. 

3. Natural sunlight can’t be beat

Getting a good spot in the library is hard enough, getting one with good lighting is almost impossible! The great thing about cafes is that they’re small enough that almost every seat gets some sunlight, at least indirectly. It’s nice to be near a window when studying (again, if you can handle the distraction). 

4. Sometimes you need to get away

Personally, I prefer studying at the cafe a block away from my apartment, which means it’s usually filled with students and thus not much different than the occupants of a library. However, the great thing about cafe studying means that you have the option to choose a cafe far away from campus, the ghetto, and any sign of student life. There are tons of great cafes all through Montreal, particularly further uptown, which you can check out if you want to separate yourself from the palpable stress emanating from students during finals. 


5. Don’t underestimate the importance of ambience

It’s important to find a place you feel comfortable and motivated to study, and this means different things for different people. At the library, the vibe tends to be one of heightened anxiety and dreariness (at least in my opinion). In cafes, I find that there’s a lot more diversity – even at the mecca of cafes located at the corner of Milton-Parc, there’s a whole range of vibes: Second Cup, for example, is generally very lively, since it’s the largest cafe, and plays louder and more upbeat music. A few feet away is Chai, which is known as the chill, mellow cafe, since it is mostly filled with people studying or quietly talking, and there is always a relaxing song on. So make sure to check out different cafes to see if you find a vibe that fits your particular study habits or mood; it could make a huge difference!

6. Harness the power of distractions

As mentioned a few times in this list, it’s important that you can control the distractions around you. Talking, music, food, etc. – all of these can be potentially fatal distractions that derail you completely, but if you learn how to feed off these distractions, they can in fact be very motivating. Personally, I find that when I’m at the library and see that the same group of dozens of students has been sitting at the same tables for hours, I simply get bored. At a cafe, however, people are always coming in and out, and the opportunities for people-watching are endless. I find that the energy and life that happens outside the cafe window keeps me sharp and focused, which is why I welcome the hectic movement in favor of the stillness of the library. 


I will admit that the library has its perks, and if you find that you study well there, that’s great! But if you find yourself for some reason uanble to be productive, or looking for a change of scenery, I highly recommend trying to study at a cafe for a few hours, or a whole day – you never know, it could be just the boost you need to do some efficient studying! To learn more about cafes in Montreal, check out this article from Her Campus McGill for some inspiration!


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Katrina served as the Campus Correspondent of Her Campus McGill from 2013-2015.  With a love of writing, fashion, and fitness, she spent a lot of her time exploring Montréal to find great things around campus and in the city to share with the Her Campus readers. Twitter @KatrinaKairys.Awarded 1st place for "On Campus Publicity" for My Campus Chapter Awards 2014Awarded Her Campus "Gold Chapter Level" 2013Awarded Her Campus "Platinum Chapter Level" 2014