By Jacklyn DeMeuse, Elizabeth Cichowski, & Allyson Haefke
Spring Break looked incredibly different before COVID-19 hit the United States. Students have had to decide, lately, whether it is in their best interest to continue with their travel plans.
Students from colleges all over the United States took spring break as an opportunity to travel with friends to remote beaches, indulge in the local cuisines and activities, and relax outside of their regular studies. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, spring break has been seen quite a bit differently. Instead of being around friends and family, students were reduced to staying indoors unless necessary due to COVID-19. As spring break 2021 rolled around, students and the community have partially opened up to traveling and gathering ideas once more.
This year has been a mixed bag as to whether students chose to stay in, work throughout their spring break period, or continue with the travels they missed out on in 2020. Some campuses across Wisconsin canceled spring break for the year, including the University of Wisconsin – Madison and University of Wisconsin – Stout, leaving students with no choice but to stay in or work. The University of Wisconsin – Green Bay (UWGB) had a different view, allowing students to make their own decisions about their spring break activities. Though students had a choice this year, they needed to choose wisely and safely. The pandemic is still very real, and vaccines have not yet been made available to students, so they were still obligated to make decisions that would not negatively affect the rest of the students and faculty. Baylee Nelis, a UWGB junior, shared that she would not miss out on visiting her family in Florida any longer, so COVID-19 didn’t stop her. However, she stayed away from large gatherings and spent most of her time with her close family.
A survey created by Jaclyn DeMeuse, Allyson Haefke, and Elizabeth Cichowski using Qualtrics, asking students about their spring break experiences, was conducted the week after the recess ended. Students were asked what they did over spring break, whether COVID-19 affected their activity decisions, and whether they thought that UWGB had handled the spring break recess well. The survey reported twenty-nine answers for both open and closed style questions. Twenty-two students were in the junior/senior class, while seven were freshmen/sophomores.
UWGB students, being able to make their own decisions, each had their view on what would be appropriate during a pandemic spring break. Out of the 29 student responses, five students chose to travel, ten students stayed in, eleven students worked during the break, and three students were in between, making shorter trips to see family and friends within the state.
COVID-19 impacted spring break in 2020, but in 2021 it had a different, less significant effect. Students who did travel made sure that they chose less crowded transportation modes, such as automobile instead of an airplane. Some students stayed home due to the effects of COVID-19. The pandemic controlled whether they felt comfortable enough to travel or not. Those that worked over spring break continued to go to work, as nothing changed due to the pandemic over the recess. In addition, some students could not travel to the destinations of their original choosing because of quarantine requirements upon entrance/return. Even though many people were affected by COVID-19, most students in this survey, 23 out of 29, did not need to change their spring break plans.
UWGB was one of the few universities in Wisconsin that allowed students to have an uncontrolled spring break experience. Students in the neighboring universities either had their spring breaks canceled or limited. The majority of the students surveyed agreed that UWGB handled spring break safely and appropriately. These students believe that the university advocates for their mental health and understands that they need their time away from their studies. Testing was kept open, and extra testing was allowed for students that traveled, which was viewed as another positive reaction by UWGB. Others believe that UWGB should have canceled their spring break along with most of the state of Wisconsin. They believe that there should have been a more strict testing schedule for those who traveled or had the classes moved to virtual upon returning to class. This would have alleviated the stress of going back into a classroom where students could have potentially traveled out of state the previous week.