Classes are back in session. For many Yalies, coming back to campus was a dread. We all relaxed and had time to take care of ourselves. However, in my case, I never left Yale. For spring break, I was among the few students who stayed on campus. I wasn’t necessarily bothered by the prospect of staying in New Haven as I had already done so for October break and Thanksgiving break. Nevertheless, this break was particularly different from my other stays in New Haven.
To start, this break was the longest. Two weeks is generous for spring break so that meant many more Yalies decided to head back to their hometowns or go on vacation to a Mexican beach or somewhere along those lines. As a result, campus was more empty than it was during past breaks which meant I should have basically been on my own this time. However, I was fortunate to have a couple of friends also stay on campus, so my experience wasn’t too bad. Despite having friends here, I still longed for more people to be on campus and possibly have more people to socialize with. This wasn’t the case, so often I just spent the majority of my day in my suite watching Netflix, reading, or catching up on sleep. Depending on your perspective, this could be seen as a waste of a break or simply another form of self-care.
Another distinction for students who stayed on campus and had done so for the previous breaks was the lack of dining hall access. Throughout the October and Thanksgiving recesses, some dining halls were open for at least a couple of days for free. This time a meal plan had to be purchased to be able to eat during break. For a student like me, this meal plan was not an option due to its price. Instead, I had simple meals such as sandwiches, fruits, and ramen, with occasional meals from restaurants. Through this diet, I probably did little service to my health and honestly the meals didn’t really satiate my hunger. Snacks became a necessity. Overall, I was able to get by, but if we had free access to a dining hall (even for a couple of days), I think all those who had stayed on campus would have appreciated it greatly.
Based on these descriptions alone, it may sound like staying on campus is horrible, but that is absolutely false. My break’s harsh “conditions” were mostly a result of poor planning and decision making. After all, I’m only a first-year and this was the first time I had to deal with not having dining hall food available over a break. Yet, these problems also gave me the opportunity to explore New Haven. Whether it was going to small markets and local businesses for some distraction, or finding new restaurants, I came to appreciate New Haven a lot more. Not to mention, there was a Saint Patrick’s Day parade in the city over break that allowed me to feel part of the city and see the traditions of the community. I also found connections to my Mexican culture via my favorite part of my nationality: food. Break granted me the glorious opportunity to go to Long Wharf where you will find predominantly Latin American food trucks. Authentic Mexican cuisine comforted me and made this city feel more like home. Frankly, this was probably my most valuable experience as I was able to explore and appreciate New Haven as a first-year, which is honestly something a lot of seniors have yet to do, or don’t want to do.
But perhaps most surprising, I believe you really get to enjoy Yale’s campus more when you aren’t worried about the work you have to do and when others are scurrying to get to class. If you take a walk in the middle of a sunny day around Yale’s empty campus, you really find an appreciation for the beauty of our university. Even if you already enjoy campus, I strongly believe that you will find new reasons to admire Yale when it is in a more peaceful state.
Despite my lack of travels to another country for spring break or to my hometown, I still think my time was well spent in New Haven. Of course, some things were difficult to cope with, but I also found a new appreciation for the amazing city we find ourselves in and the beautiful campus we live in. These experiences are just as exciting to me as anything my peers did over their breaks. My point here is that living on campus for breaks is something I don’t feel is necessarily a waste. On the contrary, I think it was an awesome time and allowed me to learn so much about myself, campus, and New Haven. Maybe next time you find yourself buying a ticket to leave campus, don’t and put yourself in what might start as an uncomfortable situation. Later, you may find it was just as worthwhile as anything you were planning to do off campus.
Carlos Rodriguez Cortez | firstname.lastname@example.org