Students are decking the residence halls, off-campus houses and apartments this year after COVID-19 concerns and inflexible work schedules have prevented them from returning home for the holidays.
Still, those students left on campus are finding ways to keep their holiday cheer.
“Me and my friend recently bought a tiny tree together and just decorated it, so it feels a little bit more festive than it did before,” Dalia Marquez, a first-year studying psychology and music, said.
Marquez's family recently moved to Washington state, and she said traveling there would be risky. She also said she is unable to take additional days off of work due to quarantine and travel.
“I’m pretty at peace with my decision,” she said. “It seemed like the safest option to stay here.”
Though she won't be physically there for the holiday season, she plans to keep in touch with her family through FaceTime.
“I’ll probably ask to FaceTime while all the kids are opening all their presents, just so it will feel like I’m there," Marquez said.
Marquez is comforted knowing that she isn't entirely alone during this time, since she has friends who are also in the area for the holidays.
Like Marquez, senior Clara Matthews could not get time off to travel to see her family for Christmas.
“My trying to be responsible and save is resulting in me not getting to be with my family over the holidays,” Matthews, who works to financially prepare for post-graduation, said.
As a Cuban American, Matthews said Christmas is important to her because of the familial and cultural significance surrounding it.
“I’ve had so many awesome Christmases spent in Miami with my mom’s family doing the Noche Buena on Christmas Eve,” she said. “It’s weird to not have that as an option.”
Matthews said although she wishes she could be with her family, she hasn’t lost her holiday cheer.
“I have a live Christmas tree, which is really nice,” she said. “I’m kind of surprised by how positive it is to have it around because it’s a reminder that it is a special time of the year.”
Jai Neville, a sophomore journalism student, has created their own sanctuary to freely celebrate the holidays and preserve her physical and mental health.
“I really enjoy myself and I know if I go home, I can’t be the person I am here, in my own space,” Neville said. “It’s good to be able to celebrate the holiday and also be myself.”
To stay in this positive space, Neville has been listening to Christmas music and watching Christmas claymations.
“Christmas music and the claymation movies just make me feel very good,” she said. “They make me feel like a child.”
For Neville, the Christmas spirit comes from the love and joy they feel surrounding the holiday. She said staying in good spirits during this time hasn’t been difficult.
“I just love Christmas,” she said. “It just feels like a whole lot of joy and it makes me feel a lot of love.”
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