The Student News Site of University of California - San Diego

The UCSD Guardian

The Student News Site of University of California - San Diego

The UCSD Guardian

The Student News Site of University of California - San Diego

The UCSD Guardian

UCSD’s holiday leftovers: Fighting the fall blues

Photo courtesy of Getty Images


Most students look forward to sitting around a dining room table on Thanksgiving Day, enjoying a home-cooked meal, and spending long-awaited time with family. But for the students who live too far away, weren’t able to afford the travel, or had other local responsibilities, a different kind of holiday awaited.

Seventh College sophomore Ginger Hu is from Fremont, California, which is just a short flight away from San Diego, but she stays here for her break.

“My parents don’t really think it’s worth it,” she said. Hu didn’t return to the Bay Area for Thanksgiving last year either but has found other ways to keep busy during the break, including spending time with friends and events with the Lighthouse Bible Church, one of the local communities important to Hu. 

Doris Huang is a senior in Muir College. As an international student from Shanghai, China, Huang didn’t have the chance to go home during the short break. Between the notoriously high prices of Thanksgiving travel and the already-complex nature of international travel, Huang generally doesn’t see her parents until summer. It would be a strenuous process to get home, especially for just a few days.

Huang said that she and many of her international friends feel accustomed to their situation. “We’re kind of used to the structure now,” she said.

As a fourth-year student, Huang also hoped to spend her break with the friends she might not see after graduation. One international friend in particular plans to move back to her home country next summer, while Huang will likely remain in the states. 

“I’m trying to spend more time with her while I can, because we might not be able to see each other for the next 10 years or something,” she said. Huang hopes to make the most of her time here while it lasts. This break, she took a vacation to Joshua Tree National Park with a group of friends. 

Seventh College junior Warren Zahn also stayed in San Diego over the break. Since he is from Cincinnati, Ohio, Zahn doesn’t see the flight home as worth the hassle. With class on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Monday after, his break would have been merely four days long. Students like Zahn might end up spending the same amount of time traveling as they do at home.

“Three days of hanging out for two days of travel is not a very good compromise,” he said. Although Zahn made the choice to stay in his off-campus apartment in San Diego, he said it wasn’t easy to spend the holiday so far away from home. All of Zahn’s roommates and close friends traveled home for the break, most of whom live in California and have a much shorter journey home. Zahn ended up cooking himself a Thanksgiving meal, watching movies, and playing video games on the holiday. 

Hu also lives off campus, and is the only one of her roommates staying in their apartment for the break, which she said is “gonna be a little scary.” 

Zahn described his own break as a little bit “traumatizing,” with all of his roommates gone, since they traveled short distances back to their California homes for the holiday. 

Without the chance to travel somewhere, students in a desolate and empty dorm or apartment might find themselves simply unmotivated to go out and do anything. UC San Diego’s fast-paced quarter system also creates a constant stream of work that keeps all students busy at home or staying at school. 

“I think last year I spent most of my Thanksgiving break studying, it was kind of my time to catch up,” Hu said, reflecting on her first Thanksgiving of college. Zahn also spent some of his break this year working, although he gave himself Thursday and Friday to relax and truly take a break. 

According to a Student Events Insider email sent out the Monday of fall break, few campus facilities remained open throughout the week. Only Sixth Market was open on Friday and Saturday while all other dining halls were closed until Sunday. Zahn recalls a “dead” campus in past years. With no dining halls to visit, few friends on campus, and the usually-packed student centers left barren, students might not even feel inclined to go outside on the holiday. Staying positive and on track can be a mental health challenge.

Hu recalled her first Thanksgiving at college as being difficult. 

“It was a hard transition going from being at home to being alone in college,” she said. “I was also definitely swamped with school. It didn’t feel like a holiday.”

“I’m from an Asian family, so it’s not a traditional Thanksgiving, it’s mostly just family time … I miss the time together with them,” Hu said. Even though the holiday isn’t widely celebrated in her family, it’s one of the only times she sees some of her relatives. It felt a little disappointing having to miss out on one of those few moments. 

“I just love being home,” she added, also expressing appreciation for seeing her family, her pets, and feeling like she doesn’t have to take care of everything herself.

Though many people don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in the traditional sense, the holiday offers many families a chance to get together and express gratitude. Out-of-state and international students face a dilemma because of the time and financial commitment required to travel home. They’re likely left envious of the students who can just drive a few hours and see their family. 

Huang described the unique isolation that international students face being across the world from their families. 

“I definitely feel a little homesick. For me, I’m the first generation,” she said. “I’m building my relationships here, starting from the ground. I don’t know anyone here.” 

Zahn, too, misses the chance to just spend time with family, talking and hanging out even just in a casual sense. It can be lonely to miss out on those opportunities. For many people, fall break simply serves as a chance to get that quality time with family.

“It’s a very strange type of loneliness. It’s not like I was missing out on anything, because there’s really nothing I could’ve done differently,” Zahn said. “It’s just a longing for human connection.”

Even though it’s not always easy to be alone, each student has made the most of their break. Hu spent Thanksgiving day with others, first volunteering and then eating dinner with a friend from her local church. Many members of the church open up their houses to those without a place to go on Thanksgiving. 

“A lot of people are really generous,” she said.

“Friendsgiving,” the practice of getting together with friends on or near the holiday, also serves as an alternative for those who can’t travel home. Both Hu and Huang took part in a Friendsgiving event, coming together to cook, socialize, and play games.

UCSD also isn’t short of efforts to keep students busy over the short break. In a long email packed with information, the school shared with students all the necessary information they would need if staying on campus and even access to a Fall Break guide where students can get ideas for what to do during their spare time. 

The Triton Food Pantry and Food Recovery Network opened their doors to students early in the week, while Housing Dining Hospitality offered students a fall break meal package on Wednesday, Nov. 22. The International Students and Programs Office also has a fall break connection program in hopes of keeping international students active and social during the break. Students can sign up and be paired with a local family for a meal on Thanksgiving day. 

Whether on or off campus, it’s not easy to be left alone during a holiday about community. Zahn said he tries to look on the bright side. Between jet lag, packing, and the universal struggle to try and sleep in a cramped plane seat, travel isn’t always fun. 

“I guess I’d rather be cooking by myself than sitting on a plane for hours on end,” he said. 

Huang was excited to spend the holiday with her friends, and she looks forward to all the future traditions she might develop. “I feel like one day, maybe, if I have kids, I might celebrate Thanksgiving with them,” she said. “At that time, Thanksgiving might be an actual holiday for me.”

It’s not easy to miss out on the chance to go home, but every student finds a way to cope with the holiday solitude. 

“I’m not really living it up, but I’m making the most of it,” Zahn said.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

Leave a Comment
About the Contributor
Vivian Dueker, Features Editor
California native and avid rock climber, Vivian pursues her interest in the social sciences through investigative articles on student-centered issues.
More to Discover
Donate to The UCSD Guardian
Our Goal

Your donation will support the student journalists at University of California, San Diego. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment, keep printing our papers, and cover our annual website hosting costs.

Donate to The UCSD Guardian
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All The UCSD Guardian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *