As campus parking lots empty and the burrow lights are dimmed on the day before Thanksgiving break, many students will stay behind because of jobs, extracurricular activities, or distance from home. This year, around 50 students will remain on campus.
“I’m from Utah and going home is just too expensive,” sophomore Veronica Ibanez said. “I usually use the break to start studying for finals.”
Student Outreach Services (SOS) provides information about open activities and meal-providing events to students staying on campus.
“We try to set up some kind of network for students during break before everyone leaves campus,” director of Student Outreach Services Christy Coker said. “We are making all the SOS games and movies available for students to bond during the break.”
SOS also finds host families for students who would like to spend the holiday in a homey environment. The week before the break, faculty sign up to host and students sign up to be hosted.
“If students want someone, they are matched through the system,” Coker said. “Not all students want to be involved but we strongly encourage them to reach out.”
Some students who can’t make it home spend the holiday with the family of a fellow student. Sophomore and international student Carmen Meijer spent last Thanksgiving her roommate Veronica Ibanez’s family.
“I spent the holiday with Veronica at her family’s place in Oklahoma City,” Meijer said. “We don’t really know a whole lot about the Thanksgiving tradition in the Netherlands so [the visit] got me my first insight. It was really fun.”
For many international students on campus, the week-long break is an opportunity to further immerse themselves in common American traditions.
“Some students have never had turkey or dressing,” Coker said. “They get to experience a whole cultural exchange of learning. Students I have hosted before are fascinated by the rural area I live in outside of Conway and the way we celebrate Thanksgiving. I have so many fond memories of students’ reactions upon staying with me. It’s incredible.”
Sophomore Andrea Stitt will be the only resident assistant on campus during the break and will oversee all students remaining on campus.
“Because I live only twenty minutes away, I wanted to give resident assistants who live far away the opportunity to see their families,” Stitt said. “Hendrix does a good job of providing resources for students that are staying. The downside is the cafeteria won’t be open, but I’m hoping to bring as many students that are willing together to cook a few meals.”
Coker views the break as an opportunity for students to become closer during their stay.
“When we can get students who are staying on campus to come together, they bond and create new friendships, and to me that is awesome,” Coker said. “That is one of the things that I really like about this part of the program. There aren’t a whole lot of people, it’s not intimidating, and there aren’t many [big events] to compete with. There are just people, personalities, and wanting to do things together.”
Though organizations like SOS are working towards providing activities for students on campus, students often use their days off to leave Conway.
“I’m kind of an introverted person and am happy to just relax and enjoy some days off on my own,” Meijer said. “Most days are going to be sleeping in and watching movies. Basically, I’m having a nice, relaxing vacation.”
For those who have no plans for the break, the campus works towards providing as many meal opportunities as possible for them.
“Some students have no place to go, and those are the [students] we work the hardest for,” Coker said.