Alone on vacation: Fall break for out-of-state students

Turkey, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie on the table—it’s a traditional Thanksgiving dinner that many Cal Poly students will be enjoying over the coming week. November 21-25 is when most students go on their fall break where they can go home and spend time with family, but that’s a luxury not all students can afford – as many international students don’t have any other Choice than to stay in the area.

Biology student Elisa Delgado stays in San Luis Obispo instead of flying home to New Hampshire. It would put too much financial strain on her to travel across the country for a week – only to fly back shortly after for the winter break.

“It’s hard to be two coasts. Traveling is always a big effort. Those days are always so long and exhausting and definitely very expensive,” Delgado said. “On top of the tuition and stuff like that, it definitely adds a whole different level of financial stress to college.”

Delgado hasn’t seen her family since the summer break and won’t see them again until after the finals week. Another factor keeping them from going home for fall break is the quarterly system’s unforgiving schedule. With its fast pace, it’s a challenge to take even a week off from school without falling behind, whether that time is allocated by the university or not.

“The neighborhood system is going by so fast that it just doesn’t make sense to travel, to travel across the country for about a week, but then also knowing in the back of your mind that I’m going home in two weeks anyway and to my family see,” said Delgado.

Liam O’Hara, Environmental Management and Conservation sophomore, shares the same position as Delgado. A Massachusetts native, he knew going to college outside of his home state would be difficult. Nevertheless, he sees the distance as a positive force that drives him to be more independent.

“College is obviously a transition anyway,” O’Hara said. “Without friends and family that I knew before, it’s going to be a little more difficult, but I kind of see it as a good challenge because eventually that’s going to happen to everyone, so why not?”

Coming from a large family, Thanksgiving gave O’Hara the opportunity to connect with extended family members he didn’t see regularly. Although he won’t be able to spend it with his close or extended family this year, he looks forward to spending Christmas with them.

For now, O’Hara is still able to connect with the family, if just not physically.

“My mom sends me things that have special meaning like snacks but also inside jokes and stuff which is a fun way to keep up with her because FaceTiming is cool but it definitely doesn’t make up for what I do.” Missing,” O’Hara said.

As a freshman, O’Hara made up for missing his family’s dinner by attending another. He traveled to San Francisco with his friend who lived in the state, which was also the first time he had been to a location in California outside of San Luis Obispo. Although he doesn’t plan to travel far this year, he does intend to celebrate locally.

“This year I’m not sure I’ll be hitchhiking with anyone anywhere in the state, but right now I just have Thanksgiving dinner planned at the house I rented,” O’Hara said. “Hopefully there are other people I can meet up with.”

For Delgado, a normal Thanksgiving included family coming to her house since it was the “hub for reunions.” They helped cook dinner and her family ran in a local turkey trot.

Delgado plans to start her break by backpacking in Big Sur with one of her roommates and exploring the natural aspects she loves about California. During the break, she also wants to see her brother, who lives in the state, and spend time with friends who have also stayed nearby.

“I’m just trying to keep my excitement up because I know I’ll be seeing her in just a few weeks and I can use that time to do fun things,” Delgado said. “Even though it’s not the ideal way to spend the holiday, I know I can still do it well.”

With winter break just weeks away, students from abroad are keeping their excitement to reunite with their families and planning to make up for lost time.