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Bryce Rowe, right, and Madison Knight, left, get ready for finals in the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library on Monday. Rowe, a sophomore, and Knight, a junior, both have an accounting final later this week. 

If the winter fog hid supernatural creatures in Stephen King’s novella “The Mist” or the 1980 zombie movie “The Fog,” then Missoula’s soupy weather may hold something equally sinister for University of Montana students.

Final exams.

Last week wrapped up the end of the 2014 fall semester and students are spending this week writing essays, taking tests and completing other tasks to show they’ve paid attention over these past four months.

“I’ve got an eight- to 10-page paper on Russian cinema and culture due on Wednesday by 5 p.m.,” said Keenan Goodman, a junior majoring in digital filmmaking. “I learned a lot in that class and I think I have a pretty good handle on the topics.”

For Goodman, the class on Russian cinema represents a means to an end. In his case, it’s an inspiring career in the movie industry in Hollywood or New York. He’d settle for making commercials, too, if that’s what it comes to.

On the second floor of the University Center, Joseph Em muttered incomprehensible phrases to himself while staring down at his spiral-ring notebook.

His notes on Tibetan Buddhism resembled a flow chart, the words written in blue felt pen. It’s his version of organized chaos.

“I finished up a paper last Friday and it was the hardest one I had to do,” said Em. “It was an essay on the history of economic development in modern Tibet. So that’s kind of depressing to write about, but also interesting.”

Em, a senior majoring in parks, tourism and recreation, talked briefly on this history – how modern Buddhism dates back to the 12th century and ends about 1949 with the Chinese invasion of Tibet.

Yet while the plight of Tibet weighs upon his conscience, his immediate thoughts are on winter break. He won’t have to return to classes until mid-January, when the spring semester commences.

“I’m going back to Cleveland for two weeks to see some family and then I’m taking off to see my sister in the Virgin Islands,” he said. “I was telling a friend of mine about it, and he said I should just skip Cleveland and go straight to the islands.”

Colleen Shields also has plans to skip town once finals are over to head back home to Maine. She’ll return in the spring to graduate from UM, so long as she gets through her final in basic trigonometry.

“This is actually the first semester where I’m not completely stressed out, but my math final is definitely going to be the one to kick me,” said Shields, who’s majoring in exercise science. “I’d like to go on to be a sports nutritionist.”

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