October 16, 2022

POGGI: A Guide to Better School Breaks

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Break: so much to do, so little time. I personally advocate for the back-home-break; I find that mid-semester trips or vacations are not particularly restful. Here’s my guide for the best possible break at home — split into four days each with a different ethos.

I try to have “homecoming day” on the first full day of my break. My goal for this day is to have the best “weekend day” that my high school self could’ve imagined. I spend it walking around my neighborhood and visiting with people or places that remind me of when I lived at home. On the chance that my high school friends’ breaks line up with mine, I try to check in with them over coffee or lunch. Sometimes we’ll stop by our old high school if we’re in the neighborhood and laugh at ourselves for being washed up. 

Even though Fall Break usually doesn’t coincide with my friends’ breaks, I try to mimic the routines of my high school life even if alone. I stop by my old coffee shop job and visit my old coworkers, or I go for a walk along my favorite trail. I also like to sprinkle in a little commerce by visiting a farmers’ market or thrift store. On “homecoming day,” I try to eat dinner with my mom either with a home-cooked meal or at a sentimental restaurant. This day is dedicated to the classics; it’s about revisiting and cherishing old friends, places and routines.

My next day is usually dedicated to rest and relaxation. Designate one day to complete nothingness. Set it aside as a day to just rot in your bed. Ignore the upcoming prelims and Fall Break goals of job applications or class scheduling. Instead, spend this day truly relaxing, not even thinking about productivity. For an extra restful day, try to minimize endless hours of scrolling and switch to more “satisfying” relaxation methods like watching a movie or reading a book. Bonus points if the weather is nice and you do some of this outside, or if you cuddle up with a pet that likely doesn’t miss you as much as you think they do.

Now that you’re oriented at home and rested, a day should be spent doing some housekeeping chores. These are tasks that don’t require the focus of studying but are still necessary (and often procrastinated during the semester). For me, this usually involves switching out seasonal wardrobe items and packing clothing to take back to school. I also try to donate, store, or sell some of the “junk” I accumulate throughout the first months of school, whether that be clothes that I didn’t wear as much as I hoped or the throw pillow that has lived under my bed since move-in. Cleaning out your backpack and organizing your online folders are other good housekeeping practices that don’t require too much mental strain but still prepare for a productive semester. If you get around to doing schoolwork on this day, good for you. If not, no worries; I find that this semi-productive day primes me for work later in my break.

If you still have energy for it, I recommend a “tourist day.” I try to have at least one per break, in which I visit some of my favorite sites around my hometown. I come from the D.C. area, so my tourist day usually includes taking the metro downtown, visiting a museum or two and walking around the city. I’ll try to grab a meal at a new restaurant or coffee shop that’s been on my radar or try my hand at cooking a new recipe with the luxury of a full-size kitchen. I don’t particularly love the D.C. nightlife, but if a friend is in town, we might stop by Dupont Circle or hop around Georgetown. The tourist day is all about expanding horizons and seeing new versions of your hometown.

One of the best ways to preemptively plan your break is to make a list with three categories a) things you miss at home b) work for school c) tasks for personal well-being. This allows for a balanced, but not too productive, break. These categories are broad — “personal well-being” can include anything from going on a run to doing laundry to getting a haircut. “Things you miss” could be cooking in a real oven instead of a dorm microwave. And unless you have a prelim or project due immediately after break, try to minimize schoolwork to the bare minimum. I find that breaks are rarely as productive for “getting ahead” as I hope, so it’s better to set expectations low. The best way to ruin a break is through unnecessary guilt surrounding productivity, especially because guilt doesn’t accomplish any more work than acceptance. Don’t be too hard on yourself.

The reality is that breaks often don’t match up to our goals, and I frequently return to Ithaca feeling disoriented and behind. But even if breaks serve no greater purpose, they can be fun and restful if planned well. So next break, sleep in, eat well and clean out your junk drawer — or don’t.

Julia Poggi is a sophomore in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]The Outbox runs every other Sunday this semester.