Brevity of fall break burdens students with excessive work and stress

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Greyhounds and Amtrak and Tribe Rides, oh my. As students at the College of William and Mary returned from our fall break this past week, for some, it seemed all too ephemeral.  

On the morning of the last day of break, I boarded a Greyhound bus in Raleigh, North Carolina that was headed to Richmond. What is by car a three-hour drive turned into a seven-hour excursion with a two-hour stopover in the Richmond bus terminal, during which I sat and read as other students of the College slowly filtered in and filled the seats around me.

Public transportation from the Triangle region of North Carolina to Williamsburg is certainly not convenient. While I was charmed by my realization that perhaps our world does not move quite as quickly as it often may seem, I longed for efficient public transportation. My “Songs for Playing on a Greyhound” playlist on Spotify soon began to repeat. The day was persisting on, and I was impatiently ready to be home.  

My day in transit felt like a waste of time. Without functioning Wi-Fi, I was unable to study for my impending midterms. I ate a cereal bar for lunch.

With no one to talk to, I was mostly just alone with my thoughts — what an unfortunate way to end such a short break. A day of travel was somewhat inevitable, but it felt as though for each day I spent with my family and friends, I spent another consigned to the road. I would not have minded so much if only I had a few extra days. 

Increasingly, universities across the nation are designating longer fall breaks, some as long as a week. Here at the College, students would undeniably benefit from a little bit more time — time for travel, family, or for some, studying. Midterms are undeniably stressful. A week of home cooked meals and visiting friends can help alleviate some of that stress. 

Given the current length, fall break felt almost like an added burden for me. I was overjoyed to sleep in my own bed and sit down to dinner with my family, but it felt as though once I had just gotten settled, it was time to pack up and turn around again, spending the day on the bus. 

Fall break naturally means something different to each student — some choose to go home, some choose to remain at school, and others visit friends at other colleges and universities. Many out-of-state students find it difficult or financially burdensome to return home due to long or expensive flights.

Others return home despite this burden, yet find it difficult to return to their normal schedules following long days of travel.

Additionally, with several holidays taking place during fall break this year — including Indigenous Peoples’ Day, the Jewish Holiday of Sukkot, and for my family, Canadian Thanksgiving — many students could have benefited from a few extra days to celebrate or observe these holidays.  

Fall break comes at a pivotal time for many students at the College, particularly freshmen, many of whom may be leaving campus for the first time.

While a major interruption in classes could hinder the groove of some students, it is also important to remind ourselves of the balance life requires. It is easy to force ourselves to push through without stopping to think about other aspects of life, but it never truly hurts to take a step back from the grind we are on and take a breath.

Fall break can be a welcome respite from our normal routines and can be an opportunity to offer us that breath we so desperately need, if only I did not have to spend half of it wishing home was easily accessible by high-speed train.

Email Alexandra Byrne at ambyrne01@email.wm.edu.