As the trees shed their autumn leaves and the students shed their tears of stress over finals, Duke University offers one last reprieve before the unrelenting grind of exams and essays and group projects — Thanksgiving break. A teaser for the longer and much more appreciated winter break that promises relaxation and recovery for another challenging semester, Thanksgiving break is the calm before the academic storm. It is incredibly easy to forget about looming deadlines while carving turkey with loved ones or scoring deals on Black Friday. 

However, not everyone used Thanksgiving break as an opportunity to escape campus for a few days and enjoy a home-cooked meal, even though the sheer number of Ubers that descended upon Duke on Tuesday might suggest otherwise. Some stayed on campus due to prior commitments, others to save money for winter break and still others just to enjoy the break at their new home away from home.

“I’m staying home because this break is going to be pretty short and plane tickets are almost $280,” first-year Tiye Flavien said before break. “I don’t have the money to fly out over this break and Christmas Break.”

However, Flavien did not believe she missed out on an enjoyable break. 

“I plan on exploring Durham and Raleigh — there’s so much more to Duke than just Duke,” she said. 

Flavien believed using her free time to learn more about the city in which she is living poses a wonderful opportunity to go beyond what East Campus and Duke have to offer and visit the Raleigh-Durham area that freshmen rarely get to see.

Others did not have a choice in whether or not they got to visit home for break. 

“I have to be here for the game on Saturday, and plane tickets are expensive,” first-year Kaila Lattimore said. “It’s just easier to stay here.”

Although she did not leave Duke for the break, Lattimore planned on participating in traditional Thanksgiving break activities. 

“My family is coming up,” Lattimore said. “We’re going to have dinner together and I still plan on going Black Friday shopping at South Point. I’ll be missing out on a home-cooked Thanksgiving meal, but I’m okay with staying here because I’ll get some time alone to just relax and sleep.”

Getting to spend the holiday with family may be the goal of many, but for some, the friends they have made at Duke are like family already. 

First-year Antonio Garcia gave a similar response to why he was not going home for break: “Well, Duke is very far from my home, and winter break is coming up soon. It’ll be too expensive to fly to my city twice in such a short amount of time.” 

Even if he could not go home for the holidays, Garcia was in good company at Duke. 

“I think I’ll do some of the activities that Duke is offering,” he said. “Plus, my birthday is on the twenty-sixth and some of my friends who are staying at Duke want to get together.”

Although several events were cancelled and buses were frustratingly slow, Duke still had plenty to offer over the break to students who stayed on campus. There were still plenty of sports games to attend, from women’s basketball to men’s soccer, and several organizations hosted small dinners for their members or organized trips to local shopping centers for Black Friday. Even if Duke itself is not prepared to accommodate students who will not be going home over break — the closed dining halls and restaurants attest to this — the students seem prepared to make do and make the break their own. At a university with such wealth, it can be dispiriting when so many of one’s peers have the financial means to travel home for every break, but student life is active enough that those who are staying behind will be in good company and find new ways to spend the holiday. 

When asked if he felt he would be missing out on anything by staying at Duke, Garcia gave an answer that captures the spirit of a Duke Thanksgiving break. 

“I miss my family and friends back home, but some of my friends here are staying,” he said. “It’s because of them that I don’t feel as lonely and homesick. I’m grateful for them.” 

There is still plenty to be thankful for, no matter where students are for break.