Turkey, stuffing in Elm City

Even though she stayed on campus over break, Katy Grunzweig ’11 said she watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday morning. Still, she said she was nostalgic for the familiar company of her mother and the opportunity to cook Thanksgiving dinner with her.

“I missed the traditions a lot,” said Grunzweig, who lives in Spokane, Wash. “It felt a little weird not cooking and not seeing family.”

Most Yalies enjoyed the luxuries of free laundry, barefoot showers and, of course, home-cooked meals over Thanksgiving break. But others, such as Grunzweig, opted not to go home because they wanted to save money on travel, especially given bleak economic conditions.

On Tuesday, the American Automobile Association reported that the number of Americans traveling more than 50 miles for the Thanksgiving holiday was expected to fall about 1.4 percent, from last year’s 41.6 million to about 41 million people. The primary causes are the nation’s weakened economy and the cost of travel, which — despite recent dips — has risen overall in 2008 due to higher gas prices. An article published in The New York Times just over a week ago, for example, said airfare has risen 15 percent this year.

Elis who chose to forgo travel last week said they were also swayed by the opportunity to focus on schoolwork. Plus, Thanksgiving was one week closer to winter break this year, making a trip home even less practical. While residential colleges sponsored ritzy Thanksgiving dining options for students who stayed on campus, for some Yalies, they were no substitute for home-cooked turkey, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie.

MONEY, WORK AND TIMING

Although she flew home for Thanksgiving freshman year, Grunzweig opted to remain on campus this Thanksgiving break.

“It was primarily travel costs,” she said of her choice to stay, citing rising airfare and added fees such as those for checked baggage and in-flight food.

She added that school and job responsibilities also factored in to her decision; a relatively quiet campus proved a relaxing setting for getting work done.

“It didn’t make sense to pay a lot of money to go home and study,” Grunzweig said.

Cecilia Wright ’11 rode a train home to Prattville, Ala., last Thanksgiving, but this year’s break was all about the Northeast for the native southerner. Hoping to save on the cost of another round-trip Amtrak ticket, Wright opted instead to take short trips closer to Yale. She caught rides to Cambridge for The Game and later to Washington, D.C. She also took the Metro-North train into New York City.

But Will Robles ’11 said he would have stayed on campus for Thanksgiving break this year regardless of rising airfare. Robles, who went home to Sioux Falls, S.D., last Thanksgiving, explained that any travel costs to return to the Midwest were simply not worth it for such a short vacation, especially since he will fly back to South Dakota in a few weeks for winter break.

Not only did Robles save on the cost of a ticket home, but he also made money working over the break at his job at the Yale Law School. He said he plans to stay in New Haven over Thanksgiving for his next two years at Yale, as well.

AN ALTERNATIVE THANKSGIVING

Yale dorms may not seem like the homiest places to spend Thanksgiving vacation. For one thing, Yale’s dining halls are closed over break, leaving students who stay on campus to fend for themselves.

This year, as in past years, the Office of International Students and Scholars offered free nightly dinners from local New Haven restaurants — an effort aimed at international students staying on campus over break but open to all Yalies.

Laura Gonzalez ’11 — social chair of the International Students Organization, which helps to arrange the OISS dinners — said in an e-mail that this year’s dinners attracted a “large crowd” of both international and American students.

“There were a couple of nights where we actually ran out of food after an hour or so because so many people came,” she wrote, adding that while she does not have specific turnout numbers, OISS had “more people than we expected this year.”

As for enlivening the Thursday night Thanksgiving feast for on-campus students, as Grunzweig put it, “The masters have really stepped it up to make it more of a holiday.”

Residential college masters hosted Thanksgiving dinners in their homes or at nearby restaurants for their students. Morse and Pierson colleges sponsored dinners at John Davenport’s atop the Omni New Haven Hotel at Yale. International student Gavrail Tatarliev ’11, who was at the Pierson dinner both this year and last, said the meal was more heavily attended this Thanksgiving.

Wright, another Piersonite in attendance, said the buffet at the Omni was “really good,” but the food was more upscale than the home cooking she is used to for Thanksgiving. Indeed, Robles, a Morsel, said he tried caviar for the first time at the Omni’s buffet. While it was no home cooking, many students who attended the dinner agreed that it was a good deal nonetheless.

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