What student hasn’t studied until the early hours the day before an important exam? Didn’t curse himself for procrastinating too much while having his third coffee of the night?

It is the apotheosis of the university experience.

During the end of the session, students often find themselves forced to cut short their sleep to catch up on the mountain of exams to revise and assignments to submit. Sometimes until a sleepless night.

Are they insatiable perfectionists? Procrastinators beyond hope? Or students busy with their business, but overwhelmed by an unrealistic load, running out of hours in a day?

To find out, we spent part of the night* at the Library of Letters and Human Sciences (BLSH) at the Université de Montréal, open 24 hours a day during the end-of-session exam period.

After dark, the seven-story building on the main campus becomes the natural habitat of strange caffeinated night owls perched above their laptops.

It’s 10 p.m. The digital music student has had his head in his notebooks since the end of the afternoon. He has to hand in an essay the next day, in addition to studying for his exams. A sleepless night in sight?

“It’s going to depend on how I’m progressing with my work, but usually, at the latest, I leave around 4:00-5:00 in the morning. I’ve spent the whole night before,” he replies.

At this already late hour, a few hundred students are crammed into the library, immersed in their textbooks. And it’s not a particularly busy evening, says BLSH director Maryna Beaulieu.

“When I arrive very early in the morning, I often pass students and it is obvious that they have spent the night here. In winter, we see them in slippers! she exclaims.

Since 2011, the Université de Montréal has extended the opening hours of its largest library during the end of term, and more recently mid-term. She is not the only one to do so, McGill University and Concordia University are doing the same for their community.

The extended opening of the library was a student request, Beaulieu said. During the exam period, it offers a quiet space, conducive to intensive study sessions.

“We also have students who need varied opening hours, for example parent students or working students,” she adds.

Studying all night requires a certain level of preparation.

After midnight, experienced night owls can be identified by the number of empty coffee cups, Monster Energy cans and chargers of all kinds that litter their desks.

“During exams, your life cycle is reversed. You sleep during the day and you come back at night, ”says Stanislaw Pytelewski, black cap screwed on his head.

The day before, the film student stayed in the library until 6 a.m. And here he is preparing for a second consecutive all-nighter.

But isn’t that a bit unhealthy? As we know, performance anxiety is a problem among students, and lack of sleep certainly doesn’t help…

No choice, drop the student. “Sometimes in a week you have four exams from four different courses,” he laments.

Exactly, doesn’t opening libraries at night send the wrong message to students?

“We are aware of that. It is presented as a choice for those who have to fall back on it […] At the same time, I think the need is there,” replies Maryna Beaulieu, director of the BLSH.

No one is forcing them to sacrifice their sleep, several students told La Presse.

“We do it because we want to have a project that we are proud of and we know that we have given the maximum,” explains Étienne Plouffe, an architecture student.

A few kilometers from the library, around thirty architecture students are finalizing their projects in the workshops of the planning faculty pavilion.

Leaning over the model of a primary school, Jean-Simon Bissonnette is a regular at sleepless nights. “It’s hard on the body, but we’re all perfectionists and we want to give our best,” he says.

Back at the library, the energy begins to wane. Some students caught the last metro. But the most motivated did not move.

Why not study from the comfort of your home? “When you’re here, it motivates you. You say to yourself, OK, I’m not alone,” replies Ghita Hilout, a mathematics and economics student.

It will be his third sleepless night in a row. Surprisingly, she finds pleasure in these nocturnal adventures: the solidarity between the students, the satisfaction of living the university experience to the fullest…

When sleep overtakes her, she sometimes stretches out on a table or on one of the armchairs fitted out for this purpose on the top floor until the spectacle of dawn.

“I love seeing the sunrise!” she exclaims.