December 1, 2013

Staying in Ithaca for Thanksgiving, Cornell Students Say They Find Little to Do

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Every year, while many students leave Ithaca over Thanksgiving Break to visit their families, some Cornellians hailing from abroad or far-off states find themselves staying in a deserted city.

Deepshekhar Gupta ’15, who is from India, said there was “nothing to do” in Ithaca during break last week.

“There was barely anyone around, and everything was closed,” he said. “I didn’t even try to go to campus, as it was depressing with no one around, [and] the weather was terrible.”

Although Gupta has family on the West Coast, he said it “didn’t make sense” for him to make the trip just for the four-day break.

“I got some time to finish my work, and since it is about a month before I go back home, I didn’t feel like I needed a break now,” he said.

Fellow West Coast resident Laura Harter ’15 also stayed in Ithaca rather than make the trip back to her home in California. Harter had a friend visit her over break, but said that if she were in Ithaca alone, she “would probably have gone crazy.”

“Most places were closed, so there was nothing to do alone,” Harter said. “We went to Syracuse towards the end of the break, as there was nothing to do in Ithaca.”

But some students said they did not mind the lull of staying in Ithaca.

Kirat Singh ’15 said the lack of activity was precisely why he chose to stay.

“I stayed back because there isn’t much to do in Ithaca over the break,” he said. “I wanted a break from having to do something while being at Cornell and just relax.”

Similarly, Tarn Susumpow ’15 said she just wanted to relax during the break to prepare herself for finals.

“[Before the break], you’re just tired from prelims and assignments and just want to relax, so it was good,” she said. “I think I was okay with the level of activities, and instead of celebrating, I felt like laying back and relaxing before finals start. I was happy.”

Some students found a way to celebrate Thanksgiving in their own way. Susumpow, who is from Thailand, said she held a Thanksgiving dinner in her house with friends.

“I actually liked [staying in Ithaca], and I didn’t leave the house because it was snowing a lot,” Susumpow said.

Other students who stayed in Ithaca said they caught up on their schoolwork.

“I saw a lot of people around, so I knew that people were here –– they were mostly studying,” said Gizem Sakalli ’15, who is from Turkey. Rather than stay in Ithaca to have fun over break, it seemed like many chose not to travel out of town so they could work on assignments, Sakalli added.

Like the students she saw in Ithaca over break, Sakalli said she has a lot of assignments due the week following Thanksgiving break. “These are big assignments, like a take home final, so there is no way that I could have finished them in one day,” Sakalli said.

As an international student, Gupta said he wished there was more to do around Ithaca during the break.

“I have been here a couple of years so I don’t feel that I need something to do. However, I feel underclassmen need something to do and Cornell should have more events for them,” he said. “For upperclassmen, I think even if there were things to do they would stick to their work.”

Sakalli said she visited a professor’s home for Thanksgiving dinner and would have felt lonely otherwise. Though she said she appreciates that the International Students and Scholars Office hosts an annual “Traditional American Thanksgiving Feast” on campus, Sakalli added that Cornell should organize more activities for students staying in Ithaca over break.

“On Thanksgiving day, the meal provided by ISSO is a lunch, which makes sense as the employees need to be home for dinner,” she said. “However, if Cornell initiated a program to help students meet for dinner somehow, it would help students staying back feel more involved.”