Madison Polkowitz / Gavel Media

Students Reflect on Thanksgiving Debate: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

The past semester has been… well, stressful, to put it one way. Between new ResLife restrictions, the lack of in-person classes, and the ever-present threat of a 14-day isolation, staying on campus has never felt the way it does right now. Many students elected to live off campus, if they even came here for the semester at all, and those who stayed have had to embrace new practices to emulate the college experience of normal times.

Recently, students faced a new challenge: the choice of whether to remain in Massachusetts for Thanksgiving break or return home, missing the final three weeks of the fall semester on campus and taking finals from their houses. For many, this decision was particularly difficult to make. This is clear from the number of students who made last-minute changes to their plans and the wide variety of reasons different students gave for their choices. 

One of the main incentives for leaving campus is the housing rebate: Those who return to their homes can receive back the money they would have spent on housing for the rest of the semester. For Noah Kim, MCAS ‘24, this was the primary motivation for going home. “I enjoyed being on campus,” he said. “But I also felt that I might as well save money on housing if I’d be attending all of my classes remotely.”

The choice to remain on campus brought with it unique challenges, too. As Sam Buhl, MCAS ‘23, puts it, “I was pretty tired of dealing with COVID scares and contact tracing. The potential for a friend to grab an innocent dinner with someone and [then] get shut into a hotel…is a reality that at home there is much less of a risk of.” Even though campus will be less densely populated for the next couple of weeks, this sentiment is incredibly valid. I was put in isolation in October due to an innocent dinner, a situation exactly like the one Buhl described. 

As the deadline to leave campus approached, however, some students started to have misgivings about their choices, whether they originally wanted to stay or to leave. For Buhl, who transferred from the University of Iowa this year, the urge to stay was strong. “As a transfer, I had worried that leaving early would potentially damage the relationships I had begun to deeply care about,” he said. “In the end, I realized that even though I was worried about my connections, I knew that they’d stick through the two months.”

Despite how it might seem (from my perspective of two entirely empty blocked quads, at least), not everyone elected to go home after Thanksgiving. Just as students who went home put extensive thought into their decisions to leave campus, students remaining at BC through the end of the semester carefully weighed their options before making the choice to stay. Joseph Fluehr, MCAS ‘23, was one such student, citing academic and social reasons for his desire to live in Welch Hall for another three weeks.

“For starters, it seemed most practical to stay on campus. Studying at home and finishing school there would have been too distracting and I would certainly feel less focused,” Fluehr said. “I also wanted to spend more time with my roommate. After [Fluehr’s roommate] was quarantined twice (two two-week periods) I hadn’t been able to see him for a month this entire semester. So, at least we could have some more time on campus.”

Indeed, studying for finals at home was one of the most difficult transitions for many students to overcome in the spring. As for the social aspect of remaining on campus, perhaps none have felt the need to make the most of the extra few weeks on campus than those who have been put into isolation, those who know someone who has, or—as is the case with roughly a quarter of the undergraduate population—those who are graduating in just under six months. 

“Being a senior was the main decision factor for me," Liam Haffey, MCAS ‘21, explained. "If I knew I had another year at BC, it would have been easier to cut this one off and go home and spend a few months there. But knowing it’s my second-to-last semester convinced me I should be making the best of it even if it doesn’t look normal.”

Saying this semester doesn’t look normal is putting it lightly. Regardless of the outcomes, it’s clear that the choice of whether or not to stay on campus was one that weighed heavily on many students’ minds. What better way to close off 2020 than with an additional inner conflict?

As you read this, I'm probably eating popcorn, napping, or playing Mario Kart. Or some combination of the three.