This year’s Thanksgiving registered as one of the busiest days for airports across the country, as individuals made their way home to see their loved ones. Unlike fall 2020, Brown students this year were allowed to go back home to visit family for the holiday and return to campus for finals. For Abbie Macher ’23, the break meant she was able to see much of her extended family for the first time since the start of the pandemic in March 2020.
“I have been in such good spirits. I’m probably the happiest I’ve been in such a long time,” Macher said. “I get to see my entire family who I hadn’t seen since the summer, I have my extended family in town and I’ve gotten to see my grandparents, which is so nice because I haven’t seen them for two years. So it’s been really, really nice to have everyone back together.”
Macher was one of the few students last fall that stayed on campus through the end of the semester, opting to celebrate Thanksgiving with her friends and finish finals from her dorm rather than at home. Staying in her Perkins dorm with her two friends during the break was “quite isolating,” she found.
“We ended up going to my friend’s house for Thanksgiving because she lives in Rhode Island,” she said. “Thanksgiving was at least relatively normal, but it was very sad for me to have my parents calling me that day. They were also sad that I wasn’t home.”
This year, returning home to Washington, D.C. for Thanksgiving celebrations has been a welcome return to normalcy, she said. But she finds that the holiday is still “definitely different,” despite being able to return home, since COVID exposures have still prevented her from seeing other friends and family.
“It’s nice that I get to see everyone, and the whole family is back together. But it still isn’t like the world pre-COVID,” she said. “We still have a bunch of precautions we have to take.”
International students once again weighed whether it would be worth flying overseas to go home for the break. Aya Akhmetzhanova ’23, an international student from Kazakhstan, spent her Thanksgiving this year in Boston with a few friends.
“I was very happy that we were given permission to travel somewhere this year for Thanksgiving,” she said. “Since my friends are all international, it’s not worth going back for a few days. So we decided to explore something within the U.S.”
She hopes to keep up the tradition of traveling elsewhere around the U.S. for the holiday.
“I honestly don’t know what’s gonna happen next year, but I really like traveling.”
Avery Oliver ’23, Cici Osias ’23 and Sarah Hoxha ’23 all spent their Thanksgiving together in fall 2020, but found that the break didn’t allow them to truly take a moment away from school or to actually enjoy the holiday.
“It was nice to be able to at least be with my friends during Thanksgiving, but it was definitely really sad (since) it was the first time ever in my life that I was away from home during Thanksgiving,” Osias said.
Osias picked up food from a family friend in Rhode Island, while Oliver and Hoxha attempted to pick up food from Federal Hill before finding that several stores and restaurants were closed. While the group enjoyed the time they had together, they were disappointed with the lack of community on campus during the 2020 Thanksgiving break.
“The entire semester was isolating. But I think like that day in particular just like, kind of honed in on that isolation,” Hoxha said. “That plus academic and social burnout and COVID burnout — totally a bit of a recipe for disaster.”
Hoxha found that being able to physically distance herself from campus by going back home to New York City this year allowed her to take more of a break and reset before finals.
“I think the physical distance from campus really encouraged me to take a break — I think if I were still at school, I probably would have made more time to do homework or try to catch up. But since I was away, I was like, I owe it to myself to use this as actual relaxing time for sleeping, watching TV and hanging out, rather than catching up on work.”
Osias pointed out that this year’s break was the first time she was allowed to return back to campus in such a short period.
“Really, ever since freshman winter break, every time I leave (campus) I’m not coming home anytime soon,” she said. “And so it felt disorienting at first to be going home.”
Especially since she’s planning to study abroad next semester, Osias has really appreciated the extra time after Thanksgiving to say goodbye to friends.
Oliver felt a significant difference between this and last year’s celebrations, though she’s grateful for both experiences.
“I feel like my mindset was different (last year), where I think I was looking to just accept anything. So (this year’s Thanksgiving) was a lot better than last year.”
In addition to their individual family celebrations, the friends celebrated their own Friendsgiving just prior to the break.
“Things really did feel a lot more normal than they have (previously) in the last year, and it was nice to finally be back in community with family,” Osias said, adding that she celebrated Friendsgiving with both friends from home and college. “It was really nice just to be able to see everyone and to be able to share food and just talk and relax.”
Gaya Gupta is the Senior Editor of Digital News. She previously covered diversity on campus. She is a junior from the San Francisco Bay Area studying computer science and English.