A week from now, the student body will scatter across the globe for spring break. Some will head home, whether that is as close as down the road in Brunswick or as far as China. Others will set off on vacations, to cities across the country and around the world. And some will stay here on campus. Everyone will enjoy two weeks free of classes and (hopefully) assignments. But when we come back at the end of March, we are all going to hear the same question: “What did you do over break?”
The question may seem innocent and polite enough, but some students dread hearing it and its implication that we should be “doing” something noteworthy over break. As one image in the #MoneyMatters photo gallery reads, “going home for break is not always an option” for all Bowdoin students. And for those who can go home, doing something more exciting than hanging around their hometown or spending time with their family is not possible. Not everyone can afford to have the kind of spring break that feels like a worthy answer to that looming question.
Although students should always be considerate around school breaks, spring break presents a unique set of challenges for low-income students. Spring break is more than twice as long as our other mid-semester breaks. This leads to a generally accepted assumption that students will at least go home, if not further—a theme that demonstrates how Bowdoin students can easily forget about money when it doesn’t pose a constraint to them personally.
Even beyond the ability to go home, in America and especially at a wealthier institution like Bowdoin, there’s a culture of lavish spring break trips. We are bombarded with movies featuring college students blowing hundreds of dollars on alcohol, pictures from Instagram feeds and even posters plastered around the lobby of Coles Tower advertising cruises. For Bowdoin students, taking spring break to travel around Europe, visiting other students there or reliving their own abroad days, is very common.
Culture around us constantly tells us that remarkable spring breaks are an integral part of a college experience, which often creates a sense of isolation or exclusion for students who can’t afford expensive trips. We as students do not have to add to that.
While part of this problem needs to be addressed by the College, the easiest and perhaps the most impactful change will come from the students. Only we can change the way we talk about break. This simple consideration, which costs us nothing, is something each Bowdoin student needs to extend to one another.
So when we all come back together on campus at the end of March, let’s abandon the common refrain of “What did you do over break?” Instead, let’s use the more open-ended “How was your break?” and hope more meaningful conversation comes from it.
This editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient’s editorial board, which is composed of Anjulee Bhalla, Emily Cohen, Nell Fitzgerald, Roither Gonzales, Calder McHugh, Devin McKinney and Jessica Piper.