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UMD Students Determine Holiday Plans amid Pandemic

In response to rapidly rising coronavirus cases nationwide, University of Maryland President Darryll Pines announced Nov. 5 that following Thanksgiving break, all courses — with few exceptions — will transition entirely online. 

Pines also announced that students who elected to travel home for Thanksgiving had to remain away for the rest of the semester. Students who chose to remain in residence halls for Thanksgiving could stay in their residence halls until the semester ended. This left students with an unprecedented decision — stay on campus through Thanksgiving break or celebrate the holiday at home without the option to return to campus until January.

Freshman journalism major Madelyn Willoughby made the decision to return home for Thanksgiving break.

 “It was definitely a hard decision,” Willoughby said. “I was mainly basing it off of the safety with COVID cases because my parents are a little higher risk. Originally my plan was to get a test, quarantine …  and then come back.” 

 Because Willoughby lives on-campus, she hadn’t visited her family often this semester in order to protect their health. She felt that returning home until the spring semester was the best option, as many things on campus were closing for the remainder of the semester, anyway, due to rising coronavirus cases.  

Willoughby left campus on Nov. 20, and so far has been enjoying a productive and restful time. 

“I slept a lot when I got home, so that was really nice,” Willoughby said. “I know that as the winter months come in, I’m going to be definitely a little bored, but right now I’m still kind of basking in getting to rest more than I did at school.”

Willoughby plans to take a course from home over the winter term and will return to College Park for the spring semester. 

Freshman biology major Brooke Walz decided to stay on-campus over Thanksgiving break and for the rest of the fall semester. Walz said she had planned on doing so even before Pines’ announcement came because she didn’t want to bring the virus to her family. She hasn’t been home since she first arrived on campus in August. 

Instead of having a big Thanksgiving dinner with her grandparents like she normally does, Walz’ parents and younger sister traveled nearly two hours from home to have Thanksgiving lunch with her and her older sister Kirstin in the Xfinity Center parking lot. They brought tents and tables, so they could enjoy a socially distanced meal together.

As for the rest of Thanksgiving break, Walz said being alone wasn’t necessarily a bad experience, saying, “I got work done and watched a lot of movies.”

Freshman history and journalism double major Angel Gingras opted to go home for Thanksgiving break. She had been trying to decide whether to leave campus or stay through Thanksgiving break, but when Pines’ announcement came, Gingras made her decision. She was going home. 

“When I heard that they were going online for Thanksgiving, it was immediate dread because I knew I had to make a decision so soon, and it reminded me of what I went through over the summer,” Gingras said.

While Gingras felt added stress due to the weight of the decision, she believes she ultimately made the right choice. 

“Whenever it comes to making really hard decisions, take your time to think about it. Know all that you can about the circumstances of what is happening,” Gingras said. “Don’t necessarily base everything on who you talk to and what they’re doing. Base it on what you think is going to be best for you.”

Kirstin Nichols is a freshman at the University of Maryland College Park, majoring in journalism. She is a campus correspondent and a member of UMD's cross country and track teams. From Crofton, Maryland, she loves the outdoors, coffee, and watching "Friends". Follow her on Instagram @kirstin_nichols.
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