Whenever a school break is approaching, students start asking one another what their plans for the upcoming break are. As an international student, my reply is always met by noticeable surprise. If I say I am going home people are both shocked, because they think Spain is too far away for just a two week-long break, and extremely excited, because they think I am doing I kind of Eurorail exotic trip when, in reality, I am most probably just going to spend most of the break back in my bed sleeping way too many hours because of my ever-persistent jet lag.
Oftentimes though, when the break is really too short for me to fly back, I stay back on campus. To this news, local students almost always sympathetically react with sadness. I find this funny because, even though I would like to go home more often, many of these breaks are new traditions for me, so it is not like I am extremely homesick or yearning home. For example, most of my friends find it especially desolating that I stay back for Thanksgiving. It was unimaginable to them that I wouldn’t be eating turkey (even though I am vegetarian!) and that I wouldn’t be spending this fourth Thursday of November with my family (although I would just be going to school if I were back home). Yet, I very much enjoy my time on campus during these breaks. For the spring break, Princeton offers local internships through Career Services, group excursions into Philadelphia and New York City through the residential colleges, and on-campus writing groups for seniors who want to work on the thesis together.
One of the aspects of living abroad that I enjoy most in general is having the agency to choose in which activities and traditions you want to partake. Because one has not been brought up in that certain culture or society, it is easier to distance oneself from certain customs or practices that might be problematic without having to completely reconsider one’s national identity. Staying on campus during break is a great opportunity to reflect on one’s experience as a foreigner in a new country because normally it is mostly international students who stay back so it is a great time to reconnect with friends who we met during International Orientation and share our common experiences so far. The International Davis Center normally prepares other activities and events such as movie screenings to bring the international community dispersed across campus a bit closer together. Overall, I find breaks on campus very enjoyable because they give me time to appreciate what goes unnoticed during the busy times school is in session. I get to enjoy campus more and discover the town better. It is a great time to learn how to cook better dishes and take extra work shifts at my library! It would also be a great time to catch up on work but I take the ‘break’ part very seriously.