Many students at the University of Arizona are getting stressed as Thanksgiving break approaches and as they plan for the upcoming holiday season.
A large number of students will be traveling back home to celebrate this holiday with their families although the process of going home imposes many hardships for some individuals.
About 31% of UA students are non-residents, which is the highest percentage seen from Arizona's state universities. Of this large population of non-residential students, many are faced with the obstacle of traveling by plane in order to get home.
As a result of the pandemic, air travel has become more restrictive when it comes to rules and regulations, making the process of going home rather tedious.
On top of the stress of the traveling, students are having to alter their usual Thanksgiving plans completely.
Paige O’Rourke, political science and French major at the UA, was one of the many who was unable to follow through with her annual traditions.
Due to O’Rourke’s parents being divorced, she said she is comfortable with the idea of staying on the move during holidays such as Thanksgiving. Every other holiday is spent with one parent or the other and this Thanksgiving she would have been with her father. Her original plan was to fly into Seattle, Washington and spend Thanksgiving with her dad, brother, grandparents, aunts and cousins, but the pandemic has unfortunately altered this plan.
“I traveled during the peak of quarantine a few months ago and it was terrifying, and reflecting on that experience, where the COVID-19 rates weren’t nearly as bad as they are now, I am nervous to fly home,” O’Rourke said.
Due to O'Rourke’s anxieties of traveling, her father and brother decided to come to Tucson to celebrate a low-key Thanksgiving with her rather than spending it with her extended family, which are her usual plans.
“It's definitely a bummer. I am an out of state student so the holidays are really important for me to be able to spend good quality time with family and see as many people as I can see in a short period of time,” O’Rourke said.
O’Rourke is not the only student who won’t get the opportunity to be with all of her loved ones this Thanksgiving.
The fear of catching the virus and the possibility of infecting others has left countless families separated during the holidays for the first time in years.
Alyssa Hepworth, a business management major at the UA, flew home to California to be with family for the remainder of the semester.
Hepworth has spent the last 15 Thanksgivings with her god-family and her grandparents, although this year looks much different for her.
“My god-family is scared of the coronavirus so they are spending it alone with their immediate family, and my grandparents couldn’t make it because they went back to Iran a few months ago at the start of the pandemic,” Hepworth said.
Hepworth is deeply saddened by the impacts of the pandemic but is understanding of the consequences of holding large group gatherings and traveling during these unsafe conditions.
Along with this, some students are faced with the challenging decision to not go home at all for the holiday in order to avoid putting family members at risk of contracting COVID-19.
Molly Finegan, a pre-business major at the UA, will be spending Thanksgiving in the Apache-Santa Cruz quarantine dorm on campus due to testing positive for COVID-19 along with having mono.
Finegan normally flies home to New York and spends the holiday with her family. Because she is sick, she could not travel as she did not want to put anyone else in danger.
“I am sad that I won’t get to see my family because we are all getting older and we don’t get to see each other that often,” Finegan said.
Finegan said that she is devastated that this virus has impacted the already limited time she is able to spend with family but is staying optimistic that she will have the chance to be home in time for Christmas.
The pandemic has implemented many new challenges for students but adapting to the adversity of the situation might ultimately allow students to come out stronger and learn how to overcome possible hardships such as these in the future.
Follow Abbie Kosoc on Twitter