After dorms close Dec. 16, some students stay behind with no way of going home for the holidays.
For the past nine years, these students have had the option of applying to stay in vacancies on Central Campus. This housing option costs $270, regardless of the length of a student’s stay. Tough financial situations lead to an increase in students opting for this extended stay, said Dean for Residential Life Joe Gonzalez.
This year, 47 students applied for winter housing, of whom 44 are international students and three are students on financial aid, said M.J. Williams, director of housing assignments and planning.
Last year 55 students applied for winter housing, Gonzalez said.
“I am not going back home over break because the plane tickets are so expensive,” said freshman Yiran Zhu, an international student from China. “It’s not worth it if I’m only going to be home for two weeks.”
For many international students, going home over break can mean a $2,000 plane ticket and an 18-hour flight. Some choose to stay at a friend’s house or visit a relative to save the expense. Others who do not have these options choose to stay on campus.
“If students can’t go home or if they can’t visit a friend or a relative in the U.S. then they can apply for winter break housing,” said Annette Moore, program coordinator at the International House.
Gonzalez noted that there are usually some empty apartments on Central Campus that are not going to be used until Spring when students come back from study abroad programs. These apartments are made available to international students who have signed up for winter housing through the International House.
“Historically we try to limit what we do to the international students,” Gonzalez said. “Occasionally, we do have requests from students who are not international.”
The decision of whether non-international students can use winter housing is made at the Office of Housing Assignments. This year, winter housing will accommodate three financial aid students who cannot afford to go home. Students’ financial aid packages pay for their stay, Williams said.
Gonzalez noted that this year, there are fewer apartments available due to the decrease in vacancies on Central.
“It’s a tighter fit now to accommodate the demand from students,” he said, noting that the number of students who applied for winter housing this year and last year are dramatically higher than in previous years. “But we are doing the best we can and all the ones that requested [winter housing] are accommodated.”
Winter break housing is only available on Central because residence halls on East and West Campus are not staffed over break, and housing tries to avoid having students in communities without staff, Gonzalez added.
Limited service on campus is open to students who stay over break, but the International House will be open for most of the break for students who need resources.
“It’s not that we house them and forget about them,” Williams said. “The International House connects them to resources to make sure that they have what they need.”
The International House organizes a trip to Target for students to purchase groceries and caters a holiday dinner. But standard bus service and dining services are limited over the break.
“Everything is limited and that’s why we encourage them to go home or go visit a friend,” Moore said. “But it’s nice that there is that option if there is no way for them to go home, that they open up apartments on Central. A lot of them cook together and form a little community.”