Winter break was a whopping five weeks long, and while most students returned to their respective homes and perhaps vacationed somewhere warm for part of it, some University students remained on campus. Whether they stayed by choice or by obligation, many of these students—isolated as they spent weeks on an empty campus—were surprised by how much they enjoyed the peace and quiet that characterized campus life.
Tatum Leclair ’18 stayed at Wesleyan as a winter athlete. Many athletic teams come back to the University early to train, practice, and bond; Leclair, along with the rest of the varsity squash team, arrived back on campus on Jan. 2, before any of the other athletic teams or students taking winter classes came back.
According to Leclair, the atmosphere on campus was eerie at first.
“There were no people, obviously, and campus just felt vacant,” Leclair said. “I think I was one of two people in my dorm.”
Soon after, however, things began to liven up. The squash team did bonding activities throughout its time together before the semester began. The team also took a trip to San Diego, which lasted a week.
“I spent a lot of time with my team,” Leclair said. “We made meals at senior houses, went out to dinner, watched movies, etcetera. San Diego was great. There was a lot of training, and we had one day off to spend at the pool or beach and relax.”
Aside from the team bonding and casual hangouts, Leclair also pointed out that members of the varsity women’s squash team had a rigorous practice schedule that constituted of two practices, morning and afternoon, both at Wesleyan and in San Diego.
As more athletes and other students participating in various winter activities returned to campus, the members of the team were once again immersed in the University scene. Leclair acknowledged that there was a noticeable distinction between the atmospheres on campus when only the squash team was present and when students returned for the semester.
“[Squash players] all became acclimated to the shrunken campus and knowing basically everyone, but it is great to have everyone back!” Leclair said. “The ‘so Wesleyan’ energy is back!”
Though not a member of an athletic team, Duong Vu ’18 opted to spend his break resting and luxuriating on the quiet campus. Vu, an international student from Hanoi, Vietnam, appreciated the option of staying on campus. Although the campus seemed dead, he still found his break enjoyable and relaxing.
“I enjoyed the long break more than I had expected,” he said. “It was the time when I could really do things I couldn’t do during the busy semester. So I spent a lot of time learning a few subjects of interest, reading books, and doodling away in my sketchbook, finally!”
Aside from discovering and re-discovering certain hobbies, Vu had company on campus.
“Some of my close friends were here also for most of the time, and it was great that I got time to hang out with them, and just understand them more,” he said.
Though Vu admitted that he initially anticipated a dull break, he actually misses the free time it allowed.
“Now I’m seriously missing it, seeing just how much I was able to accomplish over a month,” Vu said. “There’s a whole wall full of doodles in my room now, and you’re welcome to see it!”
Hannah Eisner ’17 stayed on campus to take a class as part of the Winter at Wesleyan course program. Eisner partook in what she called a challenging yet rewarding course called “Jane Austen and the Romantic Age.” The classes met for five hours per day for eight days, starting on Jan. 7 and ending Jan. 20. While there was some stress that came with taking a condensed and rigorous course in such a time crunch, Eisner explained that the stress was outweighed by her affinity for learning about English literature.
“I love English class, so it was a great solution to the frustration of a really long and unproductive winter break without being too overwhelming or stressful,” Eisner said.
While jam-packing an entire semester’s worth of material into a meager two weeks was difficult, Eisner also had a relaxing time outside of the classroom and was able to spend time with friends.
“I stayed in my room in Alpha Delta Phi, which is cozy and near the kitchen, so I had fun cooking for myself and being alone and exercising and doing all those nice, productive, meditative things,” she said. “I also had friends around on campus and made new friends in classes, which provided for some enjoyable social stimulation other than the craziness that is keeping up with everyone in the midst of a hectic semester.”
Sarah Koppelkam ’15, an English and studio art double major, came back to campus right after New Year’s Day in order to work on her painting thesis project, a requirement for her studio art major. Without other students around, Koppelkam could more easily utilize the resources, supplies, and space in the studio.
Koppelkam is creating a series of five large paintings focusing on the human figure, which will be showcased on April 15.
“It’s sort of about large crowds and chaos, and they’re really fun and colorful,” she said.
Aside from working in a Center for the Arts studio, Koppelkam worked at the Science Library during her break, which she noticed was deserted. During her first week back, not many other students were back on campus, but Koppelkam reported that other seniors working on painting theses returned at the same time that she did. Additionally, Koppelkam received support from Kate TenEyck, the mentor for the Studio Art Department.
“[She] was here, so she helped us if we didn’t know how something worked,” Koppelkam said. “But even my painting advisor wasn’t [on campus].”
The atmosphere on campus is lively now, perhaps a relief to those who endured the quiet that overpowered the University during winter break. Still, students who used the time to bond with teammates, hang out with old or new friends, or get creative with fellow thesis writers (or painters) may find themselves missing it.