Studying for exams, running ultramarathons, watching movies and visiting friends are just a few of the ways that Cornell students spent the first fall break in two years.
Last year, the University altered the calendar to have “wellness days” dispersed in the middle of several weeks throughout the semester to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission associated with traveling. This semester, however, the student body—99 percent of which is fully vaccinated—was given the option to leave campus. Some stayed behind, catching up on work and enjoying a less crowded campus, while others traveled home or explored somewhere new.
Ivan Gong ’25 originally planned to visit friends in Syracuse, but ultimately decided that the logistics of travel would be too challenging and stayed on campus. He has spent some of the break catching up on classes, while taking breaks to play video games and relax on a quiet campus.
“I really like photography,” Gong said. “Without the crowds you’d see on a normal weekend, I could take some pictures I’ve never taken before.”
For Michael Sanchez ’23, a veteran and a member of the Cornell University Veterans Association, the break was a time to see old friends and make new ones at the 2021 Ivy League Veterans Council meeting, which took place on campus.
“We’re all at different institutions, but for the most part we’re all facing the same battles. We want more veterans in our institutions, and there are roadblocks,” Sanchez said. “For us to come together and kind of tackle these collectively, it’s just outstanding.”
Many students, including Gracey Brouillard ’24, decided to stay at Cornell over fall break to focus on schoolwork. In between studying for exams and writing papers, Brouillard enjoyed taking breaks outdoors, including going birding with friends.
“I had a lot of studying to do, so I felt like the best way to stay in that academic mindset would be to just stay on campus,” Brouillard said. “It was really nice, very peaceful. The weather’s been great. Campus is always beautiful this time of year.”
Claire Blaudeau ’23 decided to take a more adventurous approach to enjoying the outdoors, and ran the Green Monster Ultramarathon Race in northern Pennsylvania. Blaudeau hiked and ran over 32 miles on steep hills, fueling herself with energy gels, fruit and snacks along the way.
Blaudeau said that spending the spring semester hiking the Appalachian Trail prepared her mentally and physically for the ultramarathon.
“I’m a big proponent of doing hard things,” Blaudeau said. “When you’re in a difficult situation, you remember that time. It’s like, I ran an ultra marathon, I can sit down and do this problem set. It gives you a lot of mental strength.”
Many students, including Aimee Bostwick ’24, Kurtay Ozuner ’24 and Rachel Kodysh ’24, spent fall break at home with their families, relaxing and getting ready for the rest of the semester.
“I’ve been feeling a lot of stress at school, and I thought it’d be nice to get away and just relax at home and have some home cooked meals with my family,” Bostwick said.
While Ozuner thought that fall break was long enough, Kodysh says she wouldn’t have minded a longer break from classes.
“I definitely would have preferred maybe an extra day or two, just so that it feels like the five hour journey [home] is worth it,” Kodysh said. “I’m sure for a lot of people, especially those flying out, it felt short as well.”
For students who remember fall break before the pandemic, the four day break was a welcome return to having extended weekends. The switch back from virtual to in-person classes made staying at home more relaxing for Natalie Kalitsi ‘22.
“Last time during wellness days….I was having a break from school, but school was my bedroom,” Kalitsi said. “With these fall break days, it feels that I actually have a break. There’s more of a distinction between home life and school.”
Regardless of their destinations, all students who were traveling were required to complete a travel form at least 48 hours before their departure in order to turn off their surveillance testing requirement. The University travel guidelines state that mandatory surveillance testing will be assigned to students who left campus during the week of Oct. 11.
According to Kristin Hopkins, project manager for the Daily Check Leadership Team, while there are no restrictions on personal travel, international travel is discouraged for unvaccinated people.
Regular surveillance testing will resume for all students during the week of Oct. 18, but regardless of vaccination status, travelers are strongly encouraged to be tested upon arrival to campus. Unvaccinated students are encouraged to isolate until receiving a negative test, and fully vaccinated students may resume activities as usual unless they are symptomatic.
While some students expect campus COVID-19 cases to rise after fall break because students returning from travel may be infected, they think that the University will be able to manage a possible case spike.
“It is definitely a little bit worrying, but it’s fine,” Brouillard said. “I have faith in the safety measures we’ve established.”