Last year, the University of Richmond had to take drastic measures to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic on campus. One of these measures was to merge Thanksgiving break with winter break, causing most students to return home earlier and finish the last two weeks of the fall semester remotely.
The academic calendar returned to what it looked like prior to the pandemic this year. Students are solidifying their plans to go back home for the short break; however, despite the country’s progress in lifting COVID-19 restrictions and vaccinating citizens, it may not be as easy for international students to go back home.
The flexibility that the long break offered international students in terms of scheduling flights is now gone. One international student who has been affected by this is sophomore Yagmur Bingul.
“Last year, I decided to go back to my home country, Turkey, for the entirety of the break,” Bingul said.
This year, she will not return home and plans to stay on campus for Thanksgiving.
The short period of Thanksgiving break gives Bingul less flexibility to schedule flights, and it could also impact her ability to go back home for winter break.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions being lifted around the world, there has been an increase in demand for flights and airfare. Spending a lot of money on international flights for only a week- or month-long break may not make much sense for some students who are miles from home.
Other international students who either studied remotely last fall or decided to take a gap year and are now back at UR are encountering the challenge of returning home or staying in Richmond for Thanksgiving break for the first time. Sophomore Miranda Moe, who is from Myanmar, attended her entire first year of college online and is taking classes on UR’s campus for the first time this fall.
“I couldn’t travel to the U.S. last fall because of the strict COVID restrictions in Myanmar,” Moe said. “Even though many embassies continued their operations, the U.S. Embassy remained closed, and they refused to facilitate the visa application process for international students.
“As for the spring semester, I was, yet again, unable to travel because of the military takeover that struck the nation at the beginning of January.”
Despite the circumstances that prevented Moe from having a typical first year in college, she is hopeful about this year’s Thanksgiving celebrations. She has mentioned that staying on campus will give her more time to study for the upcoming finals; at the same time, she will be able to make plans with other students who are also not leaving.
UR has planned events for students remaining on campus during break, including a Black Friday shopping trip to Williamsburg Premium Outlets on Nov. 26, a Thanksgiving lunch at the Heilman Dining Center on Nov. 24 and a Thanksgiving dinner on Nov. 27.
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Various organizations, faculty and staff have been in charge of planning these events, such as the Office of International Education, the Office of Chaplaincy, the Robins School of Business and the Student Center for Equity and Inclusion.
“We’re excited to share a meal with our students and get them to feel a sense of community for this year’s Thanksgiving celebration,” said Jamie Lynn Haskins, Chaplain for spiritual life and communications director who coordinated the Thanksgiving lunch event.
Seventy five students registered for the lunch, but there is capacity for more students to attend although the deadline to sign up has already passed, Haskins said.
Information about the events is available on Spiderbytes.
“We’re excited to share a meal with our students and get them to feel a sense of community for this year’s Thanksgiving celebration,” Haskins said.
Other international students who are currently on campus will use the break to explore other parts of the country. Senior Annie Pritchett-Brown, an exchange student from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, plans to visit Boston with other exchange students for the break.
“Since I’m only here for a limited time, I would really like to travel around the U.S. and this is the best opportunity to do so,” Pritchett-Brown said. “I also feel like everyone else is going away, so I don’t want to miss out on traveling.”
Pritchett-Brown said she was excited for the break because she had never celebrated Thanksgiving before.
“I don’t really know what to expect, but I’m hoping for lots of good food since my friends and I are preparing dinner that day,” she said.
Despite the possible challenges that may arise while planning trips and preparing for finals week, students will manage to make the best out of the break, regardless of where they are.
Contact international editor Nicole Llacza at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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