Pros, cons to NU’s month-long winter break

Norwich gives students a month-long break after the first semester ends. For some students it’s a welcome respite but others would like to see it shortened for a host of reasons.

“It’s kind of an awkward period. I don’t work so I’m just home for a month,” said Dana DeMartino, 21, a senior double major in criminal justice and psychology from Boyertown, Pa.

DeMartino understands that the long break is beneficial for students who can work and make money and catch up with friends, but she thinks a month-long period is slightly excessive.

“I know some other schools do those really long winter breaks where you can take a class, they have winter sessions, but I don’t think we need a full month,” DeMartino said.

Some schools use the long winter break to cut costs during the coldest time of the year. “I know Plymouth State University has a two month break,” said Ryan Farina, 19, a sophomore civil engineering major from Plymouth, N.H. The two-month break is done for winter savings, Farina said.

“Instead of paying for heat and the walkways to be shoveled and things like that during January and February primarily, which are the worst months, they give the students that time off.”

Three and four-week breaks are the college norm, however they start at varying times. Middlebury’s break this year ran three weeks, from Dec. 14-Jan. 5. Castleton State College’s started later, going from Dec. 19-Jan 12; St. Michaels break was the same.

The University of Vermont’s break was longer than at Norwich, running a full month from Dec. 12 to Jan 12.

For some Norwich students, the long break makes up for not having a break during the summer. “Norwich is a little different,” Farina said. “They like to get stuff done early so (students) have a longer summer. A lot of people have the military commitments over the summer.”

Norwich students normally get out of school or graduate within the first two weeks of May. Summer commitments begin early and sometimes span over the entire length of the summer for cadets.

“I had LDAC (Leadership Development and Assessment Course) this (past) summer,” DeMartino said. LDAC is training for Army cadets entering their senior year who will commission at the end of their senior year, DeMartino said.

For the students who have summer commitments, the month long winter break is needed.

“I studied abroad last semester so I hadn’t seen my family, or actually been home since last spring semester because I was here over the summer too,” DeMartino said.

DeMartino said the break was needed this time, but for normal years it seemed too long and unnecessary.

Military commitments are common for Norwich students over the summer.

“This (winter break) was my first time having more than a week off since last Christmas because I was gone all summer for basic training,” said Crispin Hyatt, 20, a sophomore Studies in war & Peace major from Franklin, Tenn..

Spring break and Thanksgiving break had been the only time for a break, Hyatt said, adding it was beneficial for many reasons.

“The positive effect is you get time to wind down. It’s not like in high school where you still have to go back to the same classes,” Hyatt said.

A month-long break allows students to see friends and family they have not seen in a while. For some, the long distance to home means they can’t go back for short visits and only when there’s a long break.

“There’s kids like me from California, or Washington, or Arizona who can’t just (say) ‘Hey mom, dad, I have a three-day-long weekend for mid-semester break, can I come home?’ We can’t do that so, we only get the big, longer breaks to go home,” said Kenny Johnson, 19, a sophomore nursing major from Twentynine Palms, Calif.

Johnson said that he thinks that students who live far away from school get more benefit out of the longer break.

“I don’t think it’s really there to accommodate specifically for us, but, it definitely does help us,” Johnson said.

Some students definitely see a downsides to the long Christmas-New Year’s break. One is that students normally get into routines while at school and the month-long break interrupts that.

“People get into a rhythm. I know I had everything planned out,” Farina said. “I was very structured.” Sleep schedules also get disrupted making it harder to come back, Johnson said.

“It’s being nice back in a routine but for the first week I was very tired,” Hyatt said.

Since Norwich is a military college, many students have to go to PT (physical training) while they are at school. Keeping a high fitness level while on holidays can be tough and not everyone manages to do it.

“The break is well needed, I think it’s necessary that you take that break (but) most people don’t do PT over break, so that might affect your PT scores,” Farina said.

Hyatt said he got complacent over break and did not do any physical activity and that coming back from break and getting back in shape was hard.

Another issue is picking up where you left off on a two-semester course. “I still have a continuation for world literature, continuation for liberal arts math, the continuation for military history and obviously for ROTC I have a continuation for the sophomore class,” Hyatt said.

This is not uncommon and having those continuation courses can sometimes lead to trouble.

“A lot of (courses) do go back to back; like some people have Physics One and then Physics Two,” Farina said.

If a student had a good grasp of the fall semester, then the spring semester won’t be so bad, Farina said. But he noted when students don’t do well in the first part of the class and then don’t look over any material during the break, the second half of the course can become a problem.

The winter break has some drawbacks for Norwich as well. “The negatives are we have to pay (facility operations) to be here, shoveling and taking care of parking lots,” Farina said. “I know that’s a hassle, everyone talks about moving (their) cars to plow.”

Meanwhile, the break is shortened for students who play a winter sport and the school has to address their needs. “They still have to pay to keep all the electricity going and heat and stuff on (for athletes),” Hyatt said.

DeMartino says she can see both the good and bad side of a long winter break. “I think the negative is that you’re not doing anything productive… which is also like a benefit,” she said.


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