The Bowdoin community has faced unimaginable challenges this semester, and while everyone processes hardship differently, “Polar Pause,” the extended Thanksgiving break this year, has provided students and faculty with additional time and space for rest and reflection.
Student reactions to the newly extended break have been overwhelmingly positive. The longer time for relaxation was welcomed by students who have been feeling increasingly burnt out by academic and social stressors.
“Not having work and not doing work for a while was definitely needed. I felt like I had reached a breaking point,” Juan Atehortua ’24 said.
Other students shared this sentiment, including Radu Stochita ’22.
“I feel that tiredness has come upon all of us on campus, and a break was something that was needed,” Stochita said. “The break has allowed me to reflect on my thoughts and my prospects for the future, to reflect on the past and to challenge myself to a certain emotion that I haven’t had time for before.”
The extended break announcement came as a surprise to students and faculty alike. Javier Cikota, assistant professor of history, believes that the break’s positive aspects outweigh its negative ones—that accommodating students’ need for a break was more of a priority than the disruption to class schedules.
“[The Polar Pause] was a minor hiccup with faculty as [faculty] scrambled to rearrange their syllabi, but I think it was very necessary,” Cikota said. “Whatever sacrifices we made, things we have to take out or move around, they’re for the greater good.”
With the extended break, students who remained on campus had to find unique ways to combat loneliness and new ways to plan for Thanksgiving. Atehortua and his roommate utilized their connection with Deborah Infante, the staffing coordinator of dining at the College, and ate their Thanksgiving meal at her home. Atehortua met Infante at Dinner with Six Strangers this fall.
“It’s nice to spend time with members of the community, especially being a sophomore,” Atehortua said. “I haven’t had much chance to take some time to experience things with faculty or dining, but they’re lovely. It was a nice change of pace.”
Faculty also found unique ways to connect to the Bowdoin community over the extended break. Cikota and Visiting Professor of Latin American Studies Irina Popescu began a tradition of hosting a “Friendsgiving” celebration. The pair invite all members of the Bowdoin community, from students to professors, to their home to enjoy a home-cooked meal together.
“We opened [our celebration] up to anybody that we knew that might have wanted a bigger celebration. We had to try everybody’s dishes and everyone chipped in,” Cikota said. “It’s good to find different ways to keep building community. Finding people to just reach out and see how we’re doing and get different support systems is useful.”