Year after year, I sit at home scrolling through pictures of bikini-clad pals soaking up the sun in California or Florida or Belize or Mexico, waiting desperately for my turn.
As an undergrad and now as a graduate student, I count myself among the 274,000 enrolled in the City University of New York who traditionally are about two weeks behind almost all other schools for spring break. The nation’s largest urban university system makes its students wait for their spring sigh until the parties are over—and just about everyone else has returned to class.
This year as I sit at home scrolling, I also see the CUNYverse posting pictures of sweatpant-clad days at home, students probably wearing the same outfits they’ll be in for their upcoming break. The beach will be out of reach, even for late arrivals.
Coronavirus co-opted 2020 and, in turn, ruined spring break for millions. Most CUNY students appear to have more sense than the students across the country who ignored public health concerns, kept their spring-break travel plans and headed to the sand, contracting and spreading the virus.
CUNY students, say their plans for the break—which has been shortened to just April 8-10 for undergraduates—will be different:
“Eating and crying in my bed,” reported Jesse Giordano of Hunter College.
“I have no plans,” City College’s Sydney Antener told me.
“While I am stuck indoors, all my responsibilities remain moving full speed ahead,” Celia Tsampas, a third-year Macaulay Honors College student at CCNY.
All CUNY classes are being taught remotely now, with no set date for returning to classrooms. For some students, this means staying in the city and hunkering down. Others have traveled back home outside of New York.
This year’s even more unconventional spring break is another frustration added to students’ daily coronavirus stress.
“It’s not looking like a break to me at all. I’m not sure what to do with myself and how to actually use the time to rest and re-energize,” said Yara El Murr, a student at CUNY’s Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, who was looking forward to traveling back to Lebanon before her journey became “logistically impossible. Instead, she plans to “continue to sit miserably in my sad Brooklyn apartment doing huge loads of homework and taking some extra online classes—outside of CUNY—to keep myself busy.”
Her classmate May Olvera also is trying her hardest to make the most of unforeseeable circumstances.
The transition to doing classwork at home from Houston has been difficult. With no desk of her own in her childhood home, it’s hard to stay on task: “I absolutely cannot focus here,” she said. “Everything is too comforting and comfortable to the point where it’s stressful.”
Still, any break is more than welcome: “I really don’t need it to be ‘fun’ right now. I need a moment of quiet to sit and exist without 40 things hanging over me.”
For students, that kind of coronavirus anxiety is a bigger concern than any spring-break frustrations.
“I am feeling a bit stressed during this time as the severity of this virus is increasing,” said one.
“We are well, but nervous,” said one student.
“I’m healthy,” said a third, “but concerned about the future of the world.”