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Students and faculty enjoyed a longer, more relaxing fall break period

Many welcomed the return of fall break after last year’s controversial “break days”

Last year, students and faculty were given no days off during the fall semester and four break days in the spring.
Last year, students and faculty were given no days off during the fall semester and four break days in the spring.

The University reinstated the two reading days positioned right around midterm season that many students call “fall break” this year after cancelling both spring and fall break during the 2020-21 academic year. Students and faculty spent the time relaxing and enjoying an extended weekend Monday and Tuesday. 

Last year, students and faculty were given no days off during the fall semester and four break days in the spring. The break days were spread out over the course of the spring semester and rotated across the days of the week. After the announcement, some students predicted the change would leave many feeling burnt out after months of virtual learning.

While some students used them to take a break from schoolwork and engage in mental wellness practices, others said the break days did not allow enough time to unwind after spending hours on Zoom or weeks cooped up in a dorm room or apartment. Many ended up studying and working instead of participating in other typical break activities like catching up with friends and travelling — which the University intentionally sought to limit because of COVID-19.

Now that the University reinstated reading days along with other efforts to decrease COVID-19 restrictions — including allowing in-person classes and football games — students and faculty had more opportunities to relax and prepare for midterms during the break. 

Some used this year’s fall break to get away from the stresses of University life, especially in the height of midterm season. 

Assoc. Engineering Prof. Keith Williams said in an email statement to The Cavalier Daily that after the massive increase in virtual activities over the past year, he has come to value time offline. Williams said he planned to use the upcoming reading days to play cello and relax after having to be online for so long.

“For me, shutting everything off for a while and playing cello is a therapeutic way to disconnect while keeping my brain busy enough not to miss whatever I’m missing,” Williams said.

Some experienced increased depression and anxiety during the months of virtual school as the boundaries between school, work and home life shifted.

“There is something rather insidious about having so many things online,” Williams said. “It seems to have slowly raised the expectation that we’ll always be available.”

Second-year College student Sabrina Harjanto attended the University virtually from her home last year and said the break days did not feel relaxing.

“I don’t really remember what happened,” Harjanto said. “I was working at the time so I probably went to work for most of those days. Those break days were not enough.” 

This year, Harjanto said she planned to spend breaks differently, taking time to herself to relax and recuperate by exploring downtown Charlottesville and doing some shopping.

“Hopefully, because I'm not in the same spaces — I'm actually going to my classes and not just sitting there like at home last year,” Harjanto said. “It was like the same space where I slept, where I hung out, where I did school, so I'm hoping this year it'll feel more like a break.”

Some students, including second-year Engineering student Olivia Luu, didn’t stay in the Charlottesville area and instead looked forward to going home and being with family during the long weekend.

“I plan to go home and see my family and spend time with them and celebrate some birthdays, as well as just kind of get away from Charlottesville and enjoy time at home.” Luu said. 

The fall reading days fall at a time when many professors give midterm assignments and exams. This break gave students an opportunity to not only rest and relax, but also to study, write and prepare.

Second-year Engineering student Deepika Sahoo planned to use the time away from the classroom to study for her classes and catch up on sleep. Sahoo found last semester’s days off did not give her enough time to address her academic and mental health needs.

“There wasn't enough time, such that teachers could move exams or not give assignments,” Sahoo said. “So even though we might have had that day off, it was still spent on other classes.”

Sahoo, who is from Northern Virginia, planned to go home for the break and spend time visiting and traveling with her family in addition to studying for classes. She felt this year would be more conducive to relaxation than the 2020-21 school year.

“I think it'll be more rejuvenative and restful,” Sahoo said, “Spending time with family and friends will be really, really good for my wellness.”