How to survive winter break on campus
Whether it’s travel expenses, work responsibilities, or even a desire for solitude after a difficult semester, staying on campus during winter break doesn’t have to be a sad sojourn of soup-for-one meals in an empty lounge. With a little planning and a bit of courage, you can turn the time alone into a relaxing and industrious respite.
As winter gears up at colleges across the country, short days and endless all-nighters suddenly morph into vacant classrooms and deserted dining commons. As students pack up and clear out for a much-needed breather, there’ always a straggler or two left behind. If you’ve decided to stay put over the holidays and brave the university’s lonely library and barren bike paths, here are some tips to help you make the most of your solo sabbatical.
Catch Up On Classwork
Not only can you get a head start on any research or reading for the following term, you can also use the time to take some online courses. Many universities offer free online programs, and though you may not get class credit, the experience and skills you pick up will only enhance your academic career and add a nice bonus to your resume or graduate school application.
Speaking of grad school applications, now’s the time to begin any paperwork that might be due in the coming months. Whether it’s checklists for graduation or applications for a summer internship, take advantage of these free days so that you’re not scrambling to balance it all spring semester.
So you’re by yourself during Thanksgiving or Christmas and want to throw yourself a pity party? Don’t give in to melancholy! By getting involved in your local community, you not only get a chance to help others in need, you’ll also lift your spirits and rekindle your faith in humanity. It’s a win-win for everyone!
So find a soup kitchen or foodbank and volunteer. See if the local shelter needs someone to walk the dogs and pet the cats. Spend some time playing canasta with the retirees at your local convalescent home. There are endless opportunities to connect with your fellow man. If you’re stumped, check out DoSomething.org for ideas and local options.
Earn Some Cash
With everyone spending money on presents and parties, local businesses are sure to be in dire need of seasonal help. If you’re not already employed – or even if you are, but still have extra hours to kill – why not make some extra cash with a few hours behind the counter at a retail store or restaurant? Not only can you save up for a springtime vacation or summer travel, but many stores also offer employee discounts, so you’ll be able to get all those socks and ties for your family at 20% off!
Become a Day Tripper
Just because you didn’t jump on a plane or commit to a cross country road trip doesn’t mean you have to stay within a mile radius of your dorm room. You don’t even need your own vehicle for a mini-vacation. If you’re able to nab a rental (or have access to a Zip Car), why not drive a few hours to the next town over and play tourist?
The point is to get (reasonably) lost in your own neck of the woods. Explore your neighborhood and revel in the spirit of the season. With a little sense of adventure, you’re sure to discover a new favorite restaurant, bookstore or hangout.
Get Some Exercise
When the weather gets chilly and the television beckons with hours of treacly but oh-so-comforting entertainment, it can be hard to put shoes on and venture out the front door. Resist the urge to fall into a Netflix coma and get outside! You don’t have to commit to a marathon, even 20 minutes will transform your mood and keep you healthy.
If your school’s recreation center is open, now’s your chance to hog the treadmill or try out the rowing machine. No gym? No problem! Walk the streets of your city and window shop. Go for a hike or bike ride. You could also check out a nearby hiking trail and escape the city for a few hours in a winter wonderland.
Enjoy the Silence
A few years back, College Magazine asked students about their experiences staying behind over the winter break. Most of them reveled in the solitude – going on walks and catching up on books and movies. Others rounded up fellow stay-behinds for potluck meals or dinner at a friendly professor’s house. Though all of them agreed that lingering on campus over the holidays was a little lonesome, the novelty of having the whole place to themselves livened up their days.
“The best part was how quiet it was,” said University of Miami sophomore Kim Maples. “You rarely get time and peace and quiet in a dorm, so a few days of it was welcome. I also got to take up as many washers and dryers as I wanted!”
Michael Jeter from Central Washington University also enjoyed the peace and quiet, “The best part about staying on campus was that I got to relax and not worry about having to meet up with friends or do homework or anything like that.”
Quan Nguyen from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, on the other hand, kept himself busy writing poetry, playing music, watching movies and even doing a little homework. For Nguyen, staying behind inspired his imagination.
“Solitude is [the] worst and best part of being by yourself as it forces you to adapt creatively and express your emotions through your work.”
Whether it’s by choice or circumstance, being away from family and friends during the holidays doesn’t have a friendless Bataan death march of soup-for-one and pity parties. There are museums to be explored and books to be read a whole winter wonderland out there for the taking! All you need is an attitude adjustment and the willingness to take advantage of the time and access you have now that campus is devoid of the thousands of students that clog classrooms and quads during the rest of the year.
Curious what faculty does once they’re student free? Check out this hilarious video by Truman State University President Troy Paino titled “T-Pain Misses You”, and see how faculty and staff stay occupied when students leave town.