It’s hard to miss the cacophony of suitcase wheels against the rough concrete in the days leading up to fall break. Relief paints every student’s face as they venture out into the world beyond, or as they settle into a week of enjoying campus without the pressure of classes.
But what exactly happens after you’ve turned in your last midterm blue book? Well, there seems to be three ways that students spend their breaks: going home, traveling somewhere new and staying on campus.
The majority of students go back home for fall break, wherever that may be. According to an Instagram poll of 91 Notre Dame students, 79 percent of students left campus to go to their homes away from the dome. Posted on my private Instagram account, the responses mostly came from first-year students.
On Oct. 14 and 15, South Bend Airport, O’Hare and Midway were bustling with students flying to places like Florida, New York, Texas, Mexico and everywhere in between. Many seemed eager to be reunited with their families, friends and pets.
I was among the crowd of people that left Indiana, as I traveled from 45 degrees and cloudy South Bend to 90 degrees and sunny Southern California. I enjoyed being home, as I was able to eat home-cooked meals for the first time in weeks, spend time with my family and shower without shoes on. But my main focus while I was at home was resting.
Prior to leaving, my sleep debt was building to the point that I feared I would have to declare sleep bankruptcy; but after spending the majority of the first few days at home in my childhood bed, I was revived. Beyond that, I was also able to see my old friends and enjoy the pleasures of California, like going to Universal Studios Hollywood.
There were still some drawbacks that came with going back home. Flying to and from home is not cheap, and college students are not known for an immense supply of disposable income. It is also incredibly inconvenient to fly and find transportation, especially with recent airline delays and cancelations. Many students’ flights were canceled, including my return flight to campus. Such moments can make one wonder if returning home for a mere week is worth the hassle. But at the end of the day, there is no place like home, and most people would consider going home worth it.
Students that travel don’t only visit their old stomping grounds. Some use fall break as an opportunity to travel and experience life in a brand-new setting. The poll found that 3% of students visited new places.
Megan Gallagher is one student that took the road less traveled. The jet-setting first-year spent her fall break in Rome, Italy, visiting her sister Maggie Gallagher, a junior, who is studying abroad.
Gallagher says that she “did a lot of walking around and sightseeing as well as shopping,” and she was able to visit the Colosseum and the Forum in addition to walking through Vatican City.
The trip was especially enjoyable for the first-year because “This was the first time that I have traveled out of the country, so it was exciting to be able to go somewhere other than home for break. I live somewhat close to campus, so I enjoyed getting away from Indiana for a while.”
And get away she did. Rome is 4,000 miles away and filled with beautiful architecture and vibrant culture, making it an incredible fall break vacation spot and impressive backdrop for Instagram pictures. But Gallagher does not intend to do the same next year, as she only traveled to see her sister this year.
Traveling to new locations can be fun and memorable, but it can also be filled with stress and empty wallets. Nothing quite compares to going abroad and immersing yourself in a new culture for a while, but it’s certainly not something that the average person can enjoy very often. Still, excitement and adventure are good for the soul every once in a while.
But what of the students that stay on campus for fall break? Are their foreheads wrinkle-free because they don’t have to worry about flights and packing? Do they throw secret parties all across campus?
Sophomore Bryn Boznanski was among the 18% of students that enjoyed a utopian version of Notre Dame with fewer people, shorter dining hall lines and, best of all, no classes. “Over the fall break, I got to catch up on sleep, watch movies and spend some quality time with my roommate who also stayed for fall break. We were able to relax and enjoy the turn of fall on a quiet and peaceful campus,” said Boznanski.
While many believe that staying on campus for fall break would be boring or unappealing, this was not Boznanski’s experience. “I learned that break doesn’t have to be busy or exciting to be worthwhile,” Boznaski said. “By staying on campus, I was able to meet some new friends and take time to do things I wanted to do, but normally wouldn’t have time for.”
Boznanski does not plan on staying on campus again next year, but not because she didn’t enjoy it. “Fall break just offers a great opportunity to go visit friends and family,” she said. Staying on campus is the easiest and most relaxing of the three options, but it also means going longer without seeing family.
There is no wrong way to enjoy fall break, as long as you let yourself enjoy it. If traveling is too much of a hassle, you can kick up your feet and enjoy a stress-free week on campus. If you have the means and opportunity to experience life from a new perspective abroad, do it! If what you want more than anything else is to see your family, then that’s what you should do. Classes are stressful and can lead to burnout, and fall break is a chance to relax before the second half of the semester.