Carmen Zimmer ’07 did not intend on staying in New Haven over Thanksgiving break.
In the middle of the frantic search to secure a job for next year, she accidentally scheduled interviews during the time she was supposed to be home with her family in New Mexico.
“I wasn’t keeping an eye on the calendar, and the next thing I knew I realized I was going to miss my flight home,” she said.
After canceling her flight, Zimmer resigned herself to spending her vacation in New Haven. But she said that the calm of an underpopulated campus provided a good atmosphere for relaxing and for getting work done.
“It was kind of a blessing in disguise, because now I have time to look into my senior project and get back to my art classes,” she said.
While many Yalies look forward to heading home for Thanksgiving break, hundreds of students stayed on campus this year, taking advantage of the unusual peace and quiet to catch up on work and sleep. Though some said they had been concerned about the boredom and loneliness of remaining at Yale over vacation and celebrating without their families, most took advantage of a variety of opportunities to eat Thanksgiving dinner on and off campus.
The hassle of traveling during the holidays deterred many students from returning home. Alex Kain ’09 said the effort involved in getting home to Seattle — which would have required two red-eye flights — was too exhausting for such a short stay.
“When I came back last year, I felt like I needed a couple of days off to recover from my trip home,” Kain said. “That wasn’t good right before finals.”
Kain said that he was more relaxed staying at Yale than he would have been if he had gone home.
“That’s not a reflection of my family,” he said. “It’s just about the logistics of getting from New Haven to Washington State and back in a week.”
Lindsay Barbee ’09, who lives in California, also did not go home because traveling took too much time. Barbee said that as a freshman, she had been anxious to go home by the end of November, but this year it made more sense to stay and get her work done.
Not every student who stayed at Yale for the vacation chose to do so. The Yale men’s hockey and basketball teams both had to stay in New Haven for games and practices this past week. Hockey player Robert Burns ’07, who lives in Boston, said he and other players wished they could have spent Thanksgiving at home with friends and family.
“Everyone is kind of bummed out,” he said on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving as he worked on a paper and fielded drunk dials from friends at home.
After playing a game in Pennsylvania on Tuesday night, Burns said, the hockey team took a nine-hour bus ride back to Yale, arriving at 7 a.m. on Wednesday morning. The team also had practice at 9:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day. Burns said the break was a good time to get work done because nobody was around to distract him, but that campus had a depressing “ghost town” feel.
But Zimmer said she disagreed.
“I don’t find campus eerie in the least,” she said. “I’m one of those people who enjoys peace and quiet.”
According to Saad Rizvi ’08, the president of the International Students Organization, about half of Yale’s international students chose to stay at Yale over Thanksgiving break.
“It’s one of the worst times to be at Yale,” he said. “The campus is dead.”
In order to alleviate the expense and boredom, Rizvi said, the administration recently accepted a proposal to sponsor various social events and dinner every day during Thanksgiving break for the many international students left on campus. Almost 200 students came to the dinners held nightly last week at the International Center, and many attended the Thanksgiving night ISO dance party.
“It gave people something to do, as opposed to just staying by themselves in their rooms,” he said.
Ann Kuhlman, director of the ISO, said the Office of International Students and Scholars also matched about 30 students with 12 or so local hosts for Thanksgiving dinner.
There were plenty of options for Thanksgiving dinner available to students still on campus last week, students said. Most masters held dinners in their colleges or took students out for Thanksgiving. Silliman Master Judith Krauss said she and her husband usually host remaining Sillimanders at their house for Thanksgiving. This year, because of the renovations, Krauss matched students with local fellows of the college for Thanksgiving dinner.
Barbee ate Thanksgiving dinner at LaCasa, the Latin American house.
“I had several offers to go to Thanksgiving dinners in homes,” she said. “A lot of people were nervous that I would be alone.”
Other students said the holiday spirit inspired many invitations from relatives and friends nearby, though it was easier for most to just grab dinner at one of the events on campus.
Most students said their families understood the various reasons why they couldn’t make it home for Thanksgiving. When asked about whether his parents in Boston were upset that he couldn’t get home, Burns didn’t seem to think it was that big of a deal.
“I’m 22,” he said. “They’ll get by without me.”