Spring break deprivation takes hard hit on students’ mental health

By Elena Schauwecker, Staff Reporter

The university’s decision not to offer spring break this semester was made in hopes of protecting students’ physical health by discouraging travel and stopping the spread of COVID-19. Students, however, are struggling with their mental health as a result of emotional fatigue from so many unrelenting months of classes. 

The removal of spring break was intended to prevent the stereotypical college trips that pack beaches and hotel rooms with reckless young people. However, out of 24 surveyed students, 85% said they typically spend their time off resting and catching up on schoolwork, and 73% said they had to take at least one day off this semester just to work on continually piling-up assignments.  

Students also often choose to spend their vacations visiting with their families, especially those who travel long distances to get to school who cannot make the trip over a weekend. Freshman students are typically only 18 years old and living on their own for the first time, and remote learning has left many feeling isolated with no way to make friends. 

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Maja Kuczynski, a paralegal major, said she is one of these freshmen who feels very alienated. She said the inability to see her family has taken a serious emotional toll on her. 

“My family has not been able to come visit me,” Kuczynski said. “Not being able to see my family as affected me immensely. I have felt very alone here.” 

Avy Nichols, a junior exercise science major, said she has experienced an additional layer of stress and anxiety on top of typical school burnout as a result of online classes. Nichols also said staring at a screen for days on end can result in headaches and eye strain.  

“I do feel like most times Zoom classes are more draining than in person classes,” Nichols said. “I’ve gotten to the point where I question why I’m even taking time to attend if my attention isn’t fully on the lecture. I sometimes have to force myself to put all of my attention into the Zoom so I can do well in the class.”

The issue of online classes also raises the concern that students who do not have in-person classes or on-campus jobs may be able to travel regardless of the university’s recommendations. 

“The only difference with not giving students an official break is that the students who actually followed guidelines are stuck with a draining amount of schoolwork, and there is no way of knowing which students travelled in order to test them,” a survey respondent said. 

Elliot Palm, a senior studying aviation technology, agreed. 

“I think if someone is going to travel, they are going to travel whether the university has a spring break or not,” Palm said. “If all classes are online and can be taken from everywhere, I don’t see why students wouldn’t take the opportunity to travel.”

Students are aware of the danger of COVID-19, and both Nichols and Kuczynski agreed SIU made the right decision in sacrificing spring break for the sake of safety. They did, however, offer some suggestions on potential compromises the school could make in future situations. 

“I would have really appreciated some wellness days throughout the semester. With no kind of mini breaks or days off, I feel stressed out quite a bit. I think these days would combat some of that stress by giving me time to get caught up on school or just relax,” Nichols said. 

Sixty-seven percent of surveyed students said they believe a few wellness days scattered throughout the course of the semester would have been the best course of action. Such days would not have given students enough time to travel but would have offered the opportunity to de-stress, catch up on work and lower anxiety. 

“At this point, I’m just focused on getting my work done rather than learning,” Kuczynski said. 

 Staff reporter Elena Schauwecker can be reached at [email protected]

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