On Jan. 5, just two weeks after the official end of the fall semester, thousands of University of Michigan students returned to class. Last semester, students battled rising COVID-19 cases, a return to in-person classes and the in-between of being aware of COVID-19 and the issues it presents while still trying to return to normalcy. After a long semester, many U-M students were eager to return home for the holidays. Now that their break is over, students discuss how they chose to spend their break and how COVID-19 impacted their breaks.
Heading into winter break amid rising COVID-19 cases and the arrival of the omicron variant, students had to navigate the pandemic to preserve their holiday plans. LSA senior Lily Cesario said this challenge wasn’t so hard, since most students have experienced a break like this before.
“I feel like because COVID has been around for quite a while now, I sort of anticipated it kind of being the same as it has been for the last two years,” Cesario said. “I feel like it didn’t really change my plans.”
Other students felt similarly to Cesario in that the pandemic’s longevity has just become a part of normal life. As the U-M football team headed to the Orange Bowl in Miami, LSA sophomore Alex Nguyen, Central Student Government representative, was one of the many U-M students who flocked to Florida for the game.
“It was a good time,” Nguyen said. “I was there mostly for the tailgating and for the experience with buddies.”
However fun the game was, Nguyen said he noted that the choice to attend the game amid the pandemic had its costs.
“Getting back from the Orange Bowl I wasn’t able to see my relatives,” Nguyen said. “I’m just going to quarantine for a little bit, and I get a test… a PCR test, just to be safe.”
Some students also spent the break travelling, whether that be to see family or simply for pleasure. However, travel looks fairly different in the midst of a global pandemic.
Public Health graduate student Lauren Ward visited Europe with her partner over the break and said the requirements for international travel frequently changed due to the increasing case count.
“There were a lot of testing requirements for each country, which changed a lot,” Ward said. “We were looking every day for about two weeks leading up to when we left, and they changed again several times while we were on our trip,”
On top of the constantly changing restrictions and guidelines, Ward the testing requirements became much more frequent in her schedule.
“A lot of countries required a negative test if you were vaccinated anyway,” Ward said. “The antigen rapid tests became only valid for 24 hours to enter some countries …. We basically had to test almost every day we were gone.”
Once in the countries she visited, Ward also detailed extra precautions that she and her partner took to stay safe.
“One of the things we had planned into our trip was not going indoors as much as possible,” Ward said. “We stayed outside basically the whole time,”
No matter the plans, cancellations or stresses of travel, winter break still provides other value to students, including an opportunity to recuperate, especially after a long and stressful semester.
“It was a really restful break. It was a great chance to reset,” Cesario said. “I was definitely feeling burnout at the end of December so it was really nice to just be able to rest. I think breaks are so needed.”
Beyond resting, breaks also give students time to explore other projects they might not be able to work on during the semester. Especially for seniors, like Cesario, who are entering the workforce after graduation, winter break serves as a great opportunity to focus on their future.
“Break was a really good time to browse jobs and start sending in applications,” Cesario said. “I’m really excited for life after college.”
But as the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve, and the world was rushed into 2022, the winter semester was right around the corner. After Michigan State University moved to a remote start to classes, U-M students debated between COVID-19 concerns and the excitement of returning to student life. Ultimately, the University decided to remain in person, and students were welcomed back to campus on Jan. 5.
“I’m excited for the semester. I’m just really excited to graduate,” Cesario said. “In regards to COVID, I’m not sure what’s going to happen.”
Ward also expressed hope for a return to normalcy and said she was excited to return to camps.
“I’m hopeful that things will go pretty well,” Ward said. “Hopefully by the end of this semester and summer, things will feel more regular.”
Other students, like Nguyen, said they hoped for a delayed return to in person instruction and expressed discontent with the University’s plan to return to in-person classes.
“I’m in support of a maybe delayed start similar to MSU or Harvard…” Nguyen said. “It just feels irresponsible for the University (of Michigan).”
No matter what happened over their break, students returned to campus for in-person classes, jumping into the new semester and starting the countdown until spring break.
Daily Staff Reporter Riley Hodder can be reached at email@example.com.