The holidays are all about tradition.
So it makes sense that due to high travel costs, some out of state college students have created their own ritual in order to save a little money: Spend Thanksgiving break on campus.
But while the decision makes sense in the current economic climate, spending the holidays without family not only drums up feelings of homesickness for students, but has also begun to detract from the significance of the Thanksgiving holiday.
Ryan Cheu, 21, a senior at Santa Clara University from Mililani, Hawaii, will spend his fourth straight Thanksgiving break on campus, a decision he says many of his friends from Hawaii also make. While all holiday flights have increased in cost by 6 percent this year, according to USA Today, round trip tickets from the mainland to Hawaii are as high as $1,800 over Thanksgiving week.
And with college students expected to return to campus for as little as one week after Thanksgiving to complete finals before another extended break, the costs just aren’t worth it.
“Obviously the distance and the cost – it just doesn’t really make sense to do it,” said Cheu. “I think it gives kids who live farther away a different experience in college because you actually are on your own (for Thanksgiving).”
For students who do stick around, making plans on a deserted campus can be a challenge on its own, especially when students are used to spending the holidays participating in family traditions. Nic Zavala, 20, a Chicago-area native and junior at Santa Clara, has also stuck around campus during his previous Thanksgiving breaks to avoid tickets that cost upwards of $1,000.
Zavala spent last Thanksgiving bonding with the other students scattered throughout his dorm, watching movies and playing video games. Cheu and a handful of Hawaiian students attempted to cook their own Thanksgiving feast.
In the past, both Cheu and Zavala have attended holiday festivities with friends who live locally, and although the invitations were appreciated, both students felt their presence at another family’s meal was more intrusive than relaxing. For Zavala, even little things like knowing when it’s acceptable to speak at the table when dining with another family make it difficult to kick back and relax.
“Some families are super casual and start poking jokes at you, others are more formal so you have to feel it out,” he said. “At your (own) house you just get to sit back in your sweatpants.”
Kira Kubota, 22, a Santa Clara senior from Honolulu, Hawaii, agrees with Cheu and feels the costs for a plane ticket home just don’t make sense financially. But this year, Kubota is planning to spend Thanksgiving in Las Vegas, her first time traveling over the holiday week in her four years in college.The ticket to Vegas was a senior year gift from her father.
“My dad really wanted me to enjoy one of my breaks, to go somewhere,” said Kubota. “He always said college was about the experiences.”
But no matter what students find to occupy their time, the spirit and excitement that come with a more traditional Thanksgiving Holiday begin to fade.
“Now when I think of Thanksgiving break, I don’t think of the whole family dinner thing,” said Cheu. “Even though the day actually comes, you feel like you never really are into it so it’s like, ‘I didn’t have Thanksgiving this year.’”
Added Zavala, “Without the family around, without the tradition, without the ceremony, whatever you wanna call it, it just becomes another day.”
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