This year’s much-anticipated Thanksgiving break has finally arrived, giving students a full week to visit their families and unwind before returning to take final exams. For some residential assistants (RA) at the University of Miami, however, a trip home will have to wait until the spring.
Gabrielle Yamar, a junior majoring in biochemistry and health science, is a residential assistant and is required to spend either Thanksgiving or spring break on campus.
“I chose Thanksgiving because I think it was the smarter thing to do,” Yamar said. “There are not as many breaks in the spring as there are in the fall and I definitely need that spring break.”
Despite having to stay on campus for the week, Yamar says she is keeping her travel restrictions in perspective this holiday season.
“I’m not super bothered about having to stay over the break, because I know there’s some students who are not able to go home during this time and I’m glad that if they ever need to, there is someone they can turn to,” Yamar said.
Without classes, faculty and most students on campus, UM looks a lot different this time of year than it does in the semester’s opening weeks. Yamar says that despite her family living just 45 minutes away from campus, she is preparing herself for a week spent mostly alone.
“It is definitely going to be a little bit stressful because it is going to be quite lonely,” Yamar said. “All of my residents are going to be out. A lot of my friends are going to be gone as well. I’m just going to try to take this time for myself and just try to catch up on work because there’s a lot to do,” Yamar said.
While staying at UM is not ideal, Yamar says she is going to use the time to discover the city with her fellow resident assistants when she is not studying for her upcoming exams.
“Other than trying to hang out with my other RA friends that are staying in, I am also going to try to explore Miami more, just because I do have some extra time,” Yamar said.
RA’s make up part of the remaining on-campus community when the holiday season comes around, but in addition to those forced to stay in Miami due to job commitments, many international students find themselves forced to decide between an expensive trip home or a week stuck in Miami.
Ahmed Khaled Elfeky, a freshman majoring in marketing and entrepreneurship, found the flight home to his native Egypt financially and logistically impractical, as he says the journey takes up nearly an entire day.
Instead of laying low on campus, however, he is taking advantage of the university’s scheduled breaks to travel to new cities in the United States. For fall break, he visited Boston, and this week, Elfeky is visiting Philadelphia for a few days before returning to spend Thanksgiving with a friend in Miami.
Despite the travel complications being an international student can bring during the holiday season, Elfeky says he does not view the time off in a negative light.
“Sometimes I feel disconnected when people are going home, but at the same time, I know that’s not in a sad way or anything,” Elfeky said. “I’m here by my choice, I’m trying new things and I’m going to places I’ve never been to before.”
This week, Elfeky will take solace in the fact that for him and other international students, Thanksgiving is just another Thursday. In fact, he did not know what the holiday was prior to enrolling at UM.
“The thing is, Thanksgiving is not something I celebrate, so it’s not like I’m feeling that I’m missing out on something I used to do,” Elfeky said.