An Abundance of Caution This Thanksgiving: Many Students Will Stay at BU
Plans for campus Friendsgiving dinners and Zooming with family back home
Normally, Madelyn Gilbert goes home to the Chicago suburbs for Thanksgiving. But this year, the BU student is staying put, and her plans include making a pecan pie over Zoom with her mom and eating a traditional turkey dinner with a small group of friends.
“I know some people who are going home and then quarantining when they come back, but I don’t see the point of quarantining for two weeks when there are only three weeks left in the semester,” Gilbert (Sargent’22) says. “I didn’t want to infect my family, but I also wanted to complete the semester at BU… It’s not the end of the world not to go home.”
In a normal year, the campus empties out in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, but not this year. The coronavirus pandemic, which continues to surge across the United States, has made many students decide to stay on campus, forgoing their normal trip back home out of an abundance of caution—for their safety as well as that of their family and friends.
Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged all Americans to cancel their holiday travel, and many states have issued strict guidelines for the number of people that should gather in each household. Despite this, the New York Times reports that travel over the holiday is expected to hit a pandemic peak.
Here at BU, administrators and health officials have urged students to remain on campus for the holiday and if travel cannot be avoided, to observe strict precautions, staying home for the remainder of the semester, or if they plan to return for finals, isolating for seven days. Many listened—in a recent survey about their plans sent to students by the Dean of Students (DOS) office and Housing, more than 3,300 students said they planned to remain on campus through the holiday.
For those who do stay on campus, a lot more activity than usual is planned. The dining halls have come up with four days of fancier-than-normal offerings, including a big, traditional turkey feast on Thursday, a “refined” dinner Friday night, and a Sunday boujee brunch. The DOS has organized a weekend of streamed movies, online yoga sessions, and trivia nights, as well as virtual dinner rooms to give people company during the long weekend. (For a full list of what’s going on, check out our extended listing of events on Wednesday’s BU Today “What to Do.”)?
Sabina Yosif (Sargent’21, SPH’21) is among the students who have elected to stay at BU for the holiday. Her paternal grandmother died of coronavirus two weeks ago, and as a public health major and a member of BU’s epidemiology COVID-19 Response Team, Yosif is taking the virus and travel precautions very seriously. She is planning a quiet Thanksgiving on campus with roommates, and then they’ll decorate their apartment for Christmas later in the weekend.
Daniela Kotovsky (CGS’19, CAS’21) is also staying put. She is recovering from coronavirus and says the last two weeks have been challenging. She feels better now, although she has lingering fatigue. “It sucked at the beginning, though psychologically it was a lot worse,” she says. “Being by yourself isn’t great, and in its initial days, I felt very lonely and realized I was stuck in this.”
With her two-week quarantine period behind her a few days ago, Kotovsky is planning a small gathering at her apartment. Still, she knows her parents aren’t thrilled with her decision to stay here. “I think it’s so crazy; young people are so much more aware and cautious, even though it affects parents and grandparents more,” she says.
Madeleine Murray (COM’22) is also planning a quiet weekend. She will eat dinner with her family—but do it over Zoom. During the call, she will nosh on a platter of turkey and sides that her parents ordered for her from a nearby Whole Foods. “I decided not to do dinner with friends, seeing as I have asthma, and it just seemed like an unnecessary risk,” she says. “Quite honestly, a Zoom dinner with my family and a fully prepped meal from my favorite grocery store sounded much more fun.”
We spoke to some students from the West Coast and other far-flung locales who say they are used to staying at school over the Thanksgiving break, given that the long weekend isn’t enough time for a long flight. Trevor Tamura (CAS’22) is from Hawaii and is planning a Friendsgiving with two high school friends in the off-campus apartment of one of them. “I’m disappointed about not going home, but dealing with the time difference would have been too hard for the remainder of the semester,” he says. “That being said, I am still going to miss my family for sure.”
Also spending the holiday in Boston, West Coaster Daniel Paganelli (ENG’23) acknowledges that this year’s pandemic makes the distance between him and his family feel more pronounced. “In some ways, this Thanksgiving seems more in tune with the whitewashed history of the holiday than any before,” he says. “We are all finding the people and things to be thankful for in a difficult, scary, and isolating time. The last bonfire before we enter the dark night of winter and a new COVID outbreak, if you will.”
For some students, the holiday is a sober reminder that they are a step closer to adulthood and leaving home permanently. “My parents feel like I’m growing up and living a life without them,” says Charlotte Smith (COM’24). Conversely, she feels a bit like she is being forgotten about in her house. “It’s a very strange dynamic this year,” she says. At first, she wasn’t sure how she would cook Thanksgiving dinner, as her dorm room doesn’t have a kitchen. Fortunately, she has a group of friends whose parents are cooking and then delivering a meal, complete with decorations. Smith’s parents ordered the group a cheese plate.
Other students aren’t as lucky and are taking the adventurous step of cooking a Thanksgiving dinner for the first time. They’re approaching it with a little trepidation and say that if necessary, they’ll resort to pizza or Chinese food as a backup.
Allison Eccarius (CAS’22) says her family has already promised a turkey dinner for when she arrives home following finals. “I know I’ll get some proper Thanksgiving food soon enough,” Eccarius says.