Vacation vexation

By Merav Kaufman

Today marks a monumental moment for college students: The arrival of much-anticipated spring break 2012. At long last, we at the University of Massachusetts can drop the textbooks and lecture notes, say goodbye to W.E.B. Du Bois and pursue alternative adventures.

Courtesy MCT/Campus

Whether one plans to spend their week off traveling to tropical destinations documented on MTV, hibernating on the couch or gentrifying impoverished neighborhoods (saving the world one brushstroke at a time), students have high hopes for this nine-day hiatus from classes.

Considering its relatively short duration, the hype surrounding spring break seems disproportionately high. Didn’t we return from a six-week winter break just several weeks ago? It does already seem like a wintry blur.

Yet, between spring break, winter break, Thanksgiving and nearly four months of summer vacation, our academic calendar grants us more time off than we could have ever dreamed of back in grade school. The correlation between our tuition fees and time in class is ironically negative.

Even more ironically, we are granted these frequent breaks from a life that already contains many elements of a traditional vacation. Campus living provides the convenience of meal plans, dorm cleaning services, beautiful recreational facilities, cultural events, the PVTA and a skyscraper filled with books. Our student ID card magically functions as a dorm key, debit card, library card, laundry card and meal card all at once. Moreover, living on a campus with thousands of students our own age provides the ideal environment in which to learn and grow. The resources available through the Five College Consortium and greater Pioneer Valley further make Amherst a fantastic place to go to school.

We may not exactly live in the Campus Hotel, but our quality of life is undeniably high. Within the bubble of college life, we miraculously devote ourselves solely to intellectual growth, social activity and personal development.

And let’s talk about the weather. It is a glorious 68 degrees as I write this. Students are lying on their towels basking in the sun’s rays outside my window. I’m not sure if I am looking at Orchard Hill or Nantasket beach.

Yet in a bizarre reversal of fortune, we are only able to live this idyllic lifestyle for several weeks at a time before receiving yet another vacation. Each return home is not unlike Harry Potter’s return to the cupboard under the stairs: The magical life we live away in Amherst simply cannot be replicated.

This past winter break, I was initially thrilled to partake in the luxuries of having my own bedroom, taking shoeless showers and spending priceless quality time with my family. At some point two weeks in, however, I was forced to confront the first world problem of too much vacation. I never before thought I’d use the words “too much” and “vacation” in the same sentence.

At that point, being the mature and conscientious college student that I am, I realized I must accept the responsibility to utilize my valuable free time in productive ways. Thus began my search for summer internships, tackling of long-term homework assignments and volunteering at my local soup kitchen.

Just kidding. More accurately, thus began my search for new TV shows, tackling of long-term Facebook stalking and voluntarily eating my mother’s soup in our kitchen.

I would be remiss not to mention the stresses of college life from which we do all need an occasional break. Our weeks are filled with lectures, labs, meetings, jobs, exams and homework. We must learn to navigate the constant activity on campus, establish our priorities and find a healthy balance between academics, our social lives and our personal wellness. Students are likely preoccupied with heavy workloads and anxiety for the future.

Therefore, the hype surrounding spring break and other vacations is certainly justified. However, the conveniences and opportunities we are granted as part of a university community continue to provide their own form of vacation, even amid the pressures of college life.

I wish you all an enjoyable, restful and well-deserved spring break. For those of you disappointed over a lack of exciting plans, though, have no fear: You will soon be back in an environment where your daily scenery consists of a beautiful duck pond, social and recreational opportunities abound and a delicious meal is just a card swipe away.

Oh yeah, and you get to do homework, too. What could be better?

Merav Kaufman is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected]