Away from home for the holidays

Leah Mitchell

Grand Valley State University will lay undisturbed Thursday as many students head home for the Thanksgiving holiday. As a tactic to rejuvenate the mind before coming back to campus and starting preparation for finals, most students strive to get away, visit family and hometown friends, eat home-cooked food and leave campus.

But this isn’t the story for everyone.

Each year at GVSU, there are a handful of students who choose to stay on campus instead of going home.

“My hometown is Richland, Wa.,” said sophomore Nick Prior. “I can’t afford to go home, so this year I will be going to a friend’s house in Holland, Mich., for Thanksgiving dinner. It sucks that I can’t go home and see my family because it is a family holiday, but I am thankful for good friends that invite me into their own family traditions.”

Over 2,000 miles away, a single round trip plane ticket to Richland costs between $400 and $500. For this reason, Prior can only afford to go home about once a year to see his family.

“For the most part I’m okay with it because I enjoy being on my own,” Prior said. “If I was able to go home, I think I would a little more often, but since it’s not really an option, I don’t get too upset about not being able to go home.”

Keeping students like Prior in mind, GVSU already served a traditional Thanksgiving feast at Fresh Food Company on Nov. 14, since Campus Dining buildings close with the rest of the university on the actual holiday.

“Campus Dining works to acknowledge the holiday the week before so that the entire campus community can participate,” said Deb Rambadt, marketing manager for GVSU’s Campus Dining.

Campus Dining studies local historical data to discover the number of guests in previous years and predict what the holiday will look like in a numerical value. Typically, the number of people expecting or requesting service is significantly low due to the tendency to make plans, even locally, for the holiday.

Campus housing Resident Assistants are also among the few that remain at GVSU over break. Each year upon hire, the RAs sign a contract in agreement to stay on campus during academic recess. Though it differs by residential community, sophomore RA David Doerner of Kirkpatrick said the 14 RAs that belong to the “back four” (which contains Kirkpatrick, Seidman, Stafford and Swanson living centers) volunteered at the beginning of the year, establishing who wanted to stay on campus for which breaks. Doerner will remain on campus for Thanksgiving.

“Personally, I wanted spring break off,” Doerner said. “I will be leading a mission trip through Campus Ministry during spring break; therefore I volunteered to stay back on Thanksgiving.”

Because there are close to 500 residents in the back four, it is uncertain when a student may stay later on campus before heading home, stop in for a few hours or come back early, so there will always be one RA on duty at all times throughout the break. Yet, because there are multiple volunteers for each break, the time spent on campus is divided evenly between the RAs on duty. Doerner will spend a day and a half of his Thanksgiving break on duty.

“A lot of people forget this is something we volunteered for, and somebody has to do it,” Doerner said.

Campus Dining Thanksgiving break hours can be found at
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