A Creative Study Into Why Students Study at Cafes in San Marcos

Texas State Students always look for places to study on and off campus, whether it’s a place to get away and enjoy a different environment, a place with good vibes and atmosphere, or a place with Wi-Fi needed to help them complete their assignments. Cafes are the most popular spots for students looking to get away from the library and find a different niche.

The community of San Marcos has plenty of cafes scattered around the area for students to choose from. Whether they want to study or enjoy a good cup of coffee, there are plenty of options around San Marcos that will cater to their needs. Some locals responded to a Texas State Multimedia poll on Facebook about their favorite cafe in the area and why. For Eloise Hudson, a former student at Texas State and now a mother of one, the local coffee shop was much more than a place to study. “My husband and I used to have dates at Mochas and Javas. We weren’t actually dating, we were ‘studying together,’ lol. Now, we have been married 15 years. Mochas and Javas will always have a special place in my heart.” Hudson isn’t the only one to have sweet memories at Mochas and Javas – other poll respondents shared their experiences there and also mentioned other cafes.

Out of 48 comments, nine cafes were named.

Each cafe is different from the others due to the atmosphere or how long they’ve been around. For example, according to the Mochas and Javas website, they have been at their current location since 2003, when it was established by Kevin and Kirby Carswell and their wives. Meanwhile, another town favorite called Wake the Dead Coffee House opened in 2008 and has attracted students with a Tim-Burton-esque feel. Nikki Walters commented about Wake the Dead by saying she has been going there since she moved to San Marcos. “Never felt more welcomed somewhere. Owners and baristas care so much about you, the coffee, and the vibe. Love that place so, so, so much!”. Another person named Ali Armstrong commented that Wake the Dead has a ‘super authentic San Marcos feel.’ Not only that, Ms. Armstrong goes on to say, “the staff makes you feel welcome, and there’s always fun things to go see, like art, comedy shows, or poetry slams.”

Cafes are a popular attraction in San Marcos, as there are 13 in total that are around the square and close to the campus. Each has its unique feel and atmosphere that a typical Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts could provide. In a small town like San Marcos, community members flock to cafes to catch up with friends and family, get a quick bite to eat, or find a quiet place to do work that isn’t an office or a study in their homes. A cafe has a way of inspiring those who enter, whether through the people that stay or come and go or the general setting of the cafe. According to BBC Worklife, there are multiple reasons why people feel more creative/productive in cafes. It’s described as a sweet spot of noise and crowds,’ and in a low to moderate level of ambient noise that can be heard, it can boost your creative output.

The article defined that effect as the stochastic resonance or ‘the coffee shop effect.’ In simple terms, its described as a phenomenon where we hear the right amount of noise that benefits our senses. In a cafe setting, the music you hear playing overhead, the coffee being ground in the background, and even the barista having a light conversation with a customer can affect the work you produce. The effect is described by Sunkee Lee, an assistant professor of organizational theory and strategy at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business in Pennsylvania. Ms. Lee says, “The combination of noise, casual crowds, and visual variety can give us just the right amount of distraction to help us be our sharpest and most creative.” Creativity is acquired through inspiration, and inspiration comes from the moments that happen around us. Cafes capture the essence of creative minds melding with one another, feeding off the energy around them to produce or work on their assignments.

For Texas State students, that’s true. Elijah Cardana, a barista at a local Starbucks in San Marcos, sees students always coming to study in the cafe area. “It’s a neutral environment where you can work on homework or whatever you’re working on with minimal distractions.” But, they’ve also been on the other end as a student, working on their projects, “Everyone around you is also working on stuff, talking to each other, or enjoying their coffee. Plus, you could take a breather and get a coffee or a pastry if you find yourself getting burned out or stressed.”

Baristas take note of those who enter their cafes and always try to craft the best experience for the customer. Whether a student or a local, they work hard to help create that cafe atmosphere that makes everyone feel welcome in their respective cafes.

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