Over the five-week long winter break, Mehmet Topal ’26 enrolled in a winter session course, ENGL 0511C: “Fantastic Places, Unhuman Humans,” while also working shifts at the Nelson Fitness Center. As an international student from Turkey, Topal was one of the few students left on campus over break.
“I knew I would stay here for a long time, and I tried to keep myself busy,” Topal said.
Though the University offered international students who stayed on campus during winter break resources to enrich their residential experience, students who spoke to The Herald found it difficult to find enjoyable activities and ways to spend their free time over break.
As an international student from Shanghai, Yizhong Hu ’24 was unable to return to his permanent residence due to COVID-19 restrictions for re-entering the U.S. Starting Dec. 30 2022, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ordered all passengers traveling from China to the U.S. to have proof of negative COVID-19 test or “documentation of recovery,” according to the CDC’s website.
“My parents were worried that I might test positive (for COVID-19) and not be able to return to the U.S. when classes start,” said Hu. He has not been back to China since summer of 2021.
Once winter break started, some University services and offices paused operations, while others such as Dining Services, Mail Services and Facilities Requests remained available to students.
The Verney-Woolley Dining Hall was the only dining hall open on campus during winter break. Topal and Hu both expressed that they were underwhelmed by the food options available to students at the V-Dub. “I don’t eat outside (University dining halls) at all, so I ate the same thing every day,” Topal said. Hu, on the other hand, “tried to eat out whenever possible.”
Students approved to stay on campus during break “received an email from our staff on Dec. 22, informing them of the activities and resources available to them,” Scott Helfrich, director of upper-division houses for residential life, wrote in an email to The Herald. Each student was given a “free movie ticket to Showcase Cinemas and an admission & concession voucher to a Men’s Hockey game,” Helfrich added.
Students were also made aware that resources such as the administrator on-call were available to them at all times, according to Helfrich.
During the break, international students were also given the opportunity to attend two “power hour” sessions that aimed to “create a space where students could feel empowered to ask questions and seek guidance from the collective wisdom of the community,” wrote International Student Program Manager Kelsey Trimm in an email to The Herald. According to Trimm, some of the topics discussed during the power hour sessions included internship opportunities and career resources.
Additionally, once the Global Brown Center for International Students offices reopened in early January, the Global Brown Lounge, located in Page-Robinson Hall and known as the Globe, became available to students.
According to Andrew Heald and Natalia Román Alicea, program director and program coordinator for the GBC, the Globe provides warm beverages, including hot chocolate, tea and coffee, and provides a space for students to connect.
“As soon as offices (reopened) and we restocked the Globe,” Román Alicea said, “We saw an influx of students who had been here over break (who) wanted to check in and connect with each other.”