New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

Opinion: Thanksgiving Recess leaves out-of-state and international students stranded

During NYU’s short, three-day Thanksgiving break, many international and out-of-state students find themselves alone in their dorms, missing out on valuable time with missed friends and family.
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Alisia Houghtaling
(Illustration by Alisia Houghtaling)

The beginning of November signals two things: the end of Halloween season and the beginning of the countdown to Thanksgiving Recess. For in-state students and those from nearby states, Thanksgiving — even for students who don’t celebrate the holiday — offers a much-needed break from schoolwork and a chance to visit family and friends. But many find that the three-day break instead means making a choice between long, expensive flights with short turn-around home and spending Thanksgiving alone in their dorms. 

Out-of-state and international students often have to dedicate an entire day to traveling, meaning that the short three days, plus the weekend, off from class is not enough time to travel home. NYU, as an institution that proudly claims to have the largest international student body in the country, should give students time off for the entire week of Thanksgiving to better accommodate out-of-state and international students’ ability to travel.

As an out-of-state student myself, traveling between New York City and California can be an all-day ordeal — especially when you consider the time needed to pack, travel to and from the airport and get through security. Even if I’m traveling home for longer breaks, like winter or spring break, the commute still feels more time-consuming than it’s worth.

When it comes to Thanksgiving Recess, time spent traveling usually eats into two of the three days that students have off, often requiring some logistical gymnastics to make the most of limited time at home. The six-hour early-morning flight I take to get home will mean that I’m traveling most of Wednesday, and my returning red-eye flight on Sunday night will get me back to the city with just enough time to squeeze in a quick nap before heading off to class.

Lengthy travel times are a unique problem for international students, who, depending on their destination, could take single flights up to 19 hours long — and that’s if they fly nonstop. Especially if a student has to fly internationally, an overwhelming amount of their time during the break is taken up by travel. This means students lose the benefit of spending time with friends and family from back home, which is outweighed by the stress, time and financial cost involved in just getting home.

Thanksgiving, next to Christmas, is known for being one of the busiest travel days of the year, which can add unique stress to students’ already difficult travel plans. Flight cancellations and delays are at an all-time high during this time of the year due to inclement weather and high travel demand. Chaotic airport crowds are common during some of the busiest travel days of the year — a trend that will likely continue this year with almost half of Americans planning to travel during this year’s holiday season, according to a Deloitte Insights survey.

Given the stressful and time-consuming nature of Thanksgiving travel, international and out-of-state students often choose to forgo any travel at all, opting instead to stay on campus while other students go home. Last year, I stayed in New York City for Thanksgiving break because two friends from my hometown would be in the city, and it was difficult to justify the cost of flying home for only a few days. But after spending a day with each friend — and crashing one of their Thanksgiving dinners — I spent the rest of the break on my own.

While I do enjoy my alone time, it felt very isolating to spend multiple days alone in my dorm, walking around an unusually quiet campus and eating meals by myself while many of my peers were home enjoying time with their family. Spending time on my own during a holiday that is all about being grateful for the people in your life only made me miss my hometown friends and family more.

The university did not respond to requests to comment on the length of Thanksgiving Recess or whether there are plans to extend the break in the future.

Whether students fly, drive or take the train home during breaks, they should not have to choose between spending a lonely five days in their dorm to save time and money and seeing hometown friends and family. It is time that the university extends Thanksgiving Recess to include Monday and Tuesday, so all students have the time they need to travel and see their loved ones.

WSN’s Opinion section strives to publish ideas worth discussing. The views presented in the Opinion section are solely the views of the writer.

Contact Katherine Welander at [email protected].

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About the Contributors
Katherine Welander, Copy Chief
Katherine Welander is a junior majoring in Art History and Anthropology. She is from the Bay Area, California and spends her free time reading, baking, wandering around art museums, playing Animal Crossing and drinking lots of iced lattes. You can find them on Instagram @kat.el3na.
Alisia Houghtaling, Illustration Editor
Alisia Houghtaling is a first-year in Applied Psychology in Steinhardt and one of WSN's Illustration Editors. In her freetime, you can find Alisia drawing, painting, reading, eating pasta or autopilot walking around SOHO to window shop or stare into windows and say "I want to live there." You can find her on Instagram @_alisiart_ and send Italian restaurant recommendations or ridiculous real-estate listings in the city.

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    Bob KatzNov 19, 2023 at 5:01 pm

    This is something that is overlooked when applying to college. My kids went to top university’s but no more then four hours from home. The reality is that if you want to be half way across the country going home in many cases is not an option.

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