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For those who moved far away or college, live abroad, or simply won’t be able to make it back home for school breaks, it’s tough to see everyone pack up and leave while being left to stay in a fairly empty residence hall. The prospect may seem especially bleak during the holidays, but don’t think about this time as lonely or boring! It’s quite the opposite – it’s a great time to really catch up on rest, take the time to self-reflect, wander your city, and bond with new people. Here are some survival tips on making the best of spending a break on campus.

Stock up on food

A lot of dining halls and restaurants shut down during breaks – don’t let yourself be blindsided by these closures. Prepare in advance by stocking up on essential goods. Buy soups, sandwich fixings, pre-made items, or whatever floats your boat, but also buy some fresh ingredients (if you have a fridge to keep them in) so you can cook yourself up a nice meal too. It’s hard to see all those Instagram posts of friends eating hometown foods or home cooked meals while microwaving some mac and cheese yourself. Treat yourself to a feast! Not only is there a lot of free time available, but it’ll be a great way to flex those college culinary skills.

Strength in numbers

Whether your school has a small student body or a rather large one, it’s guaranteed that you won’t be alone on campus during break! A lot of residents will seek each other out and form a little group to hang out with. Ask around or hit up the class Facebook group to see if anyone else will be sticking around. From my experience, many groups will cook together, have a movie marathon, or go out. It’s nice to have new people to meet and bond with over an empty school! (It’s yours for the taking.)

Get a Netflix queue set up

With the constant flux of midterms, papers, lab, projects, and problems sets overwhelming us on a daily basis, it’s easy to get behind on beloved TV shows. Start setting up a nice little Netflix queue of all your must-watch shows and movies to binge on when free time finally comes along. Or curate your very own seasonal list. For Thanksgiving or fall breaks, binge on throwback flicks like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. During Christmas, you can choose from classics like Elf or The Nightmare Before Christmas. Spring break is the perfect time for college comedies like 22 Jump Street.

Send a few letters to friends and family

Catch up with old friends from high school or family members you don’t see often. Pick up some stationary or local postcards to hand-write messages. There’s something to be said about these personal touches that aren’t via text or email. Use this precious spare time to update friends and family on how everything is going, maybe including some photos as well.

Explore your town or city

You would be surprised how little time you have during the year to venture out into surrounding towns or cities as a lot of college campuses have a “bubble.” Take a day trip to explore the unknown, whether it’s the immediate surrounding area or a city close by. Rent a car, take the train, or hop on a Greyhound. If you’re feeling adventurous, try it out solo. It’s amazing how much more you notice when you experience a place alone; it’s a relaxing time just for yourself. Check out all the tourist traps in the area or find some hole-in-the-wall restaurants to try out. Maybe there are some cool book stores or museums to swing by. Pick out an itinerary that makes you happy and excited to venture out.

It’s not so often you have such a free allotment of time on campus. With the buzz of hundreds of students gone and everything settled, there’s a lot of solace and new things you have the opportunities to try. Don’t just wallow, but take advantage of them!

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the author

Jilliann Pak hails from the suburbs of SoCal but is currently attending school across the coast at Johns Hopkins University. When she’s not complaining about the cold weather or sleeping in the library, she’s probably eating, cuddled up into a blanket burrito, or watching Parks and Recreation, preferably all at once.

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