Students reevaluate plans for Thanksgiving recess after new MU announcement

Following MU's announcement to move online after Thanksgiving break as COVID-19 cases worsen in Boone County, students rethink their plans for the rest of the semester.

Thanksgiving always causes students to make a decision. MU Chancellor Mun Choi announced Nov. 12 that the university will switch from in-person instruction to online classes for the remainder of fall semester. The switch came eight days before the start of the fall break. Students had to quickly decide to pack up, go home and not return until January. Or they had to stay on campus and coordinate holidays remotely while classes move online. The choice for Missouri residents to go home may have been easy this year, but the time frame made a difficult decision even harder for out-of-state students.

Thanksgiving plans for sophomore Cassie Eddy are going to be pretty familiar this year despite the pandemic. She is from Slater, Mo., a town of less than 2,000 between Columbia and Kansas City, which Eddy said makes it possible to go home for the holidays while still staying safe and socially distancing as much as possible.

The pandemic has not affected her attitude about visiting family for the break. Eddy said the precautions in place on campus have not been enforced. When Eddy compared staying on campus to going home, she was confident in her decision.

“If anything, I’m more excited to go home,” Eddy said. “To be honest, I feel safer at home.”

Eddy said the switch to online classes allowed her to go home earlier than expected, and helps the last few weeks of the semester feel less stressful. The change in plans also helps Eddy feel more at ease during her time at home.

Eddy said she is glad MU is putting student health first. While she feltt the MU announcement was a little short-noticed, Eddy said it was the right choice.

“I was relieved, it was a great decision … Better late than never,” Eddy said.

For other students, however, the announcement caused unease. Sophomore Samantha Hole said her plans are not being affected, but her family’s worries are a bit heightened. As an out-of-state student from Colorado, travel was a concern for Hole and her family.

“It did incite a lot of panic within my family,” Hole said. “My mom told me to pack like I wasn’t gonna come back until January, but I had to beg her to let me come back to campus for a while.”

Feelings from family aside, Hole said her Thanksgiving plans are already going to be adjusted regardless of the MU announcement. Students in the Hole family were planning on being separated from the rest while they ate, and her family was playing with the idea of separating older relatives with plexiglass dividers.

Although plans are being rearranged and Hole is experiencing some backlash about staying on campus for a while during the holidays, Hole said she is in favor of the new changes overall.

“I think this is the smartest decision for Mizzou to make for the safety of their students.” Hole said. “I know a lot of people who say it is a real blessing as they move online from in-person.”

Hole is worried about how staff and faculty are going to react. As the end of fall semester approaches, so do final exams and projects. Hole said she hopes faculty are understanding of everyone’s different learning styles.

“It is still a big change, and students are learning differently than expected, so faculty needs to be mindful of everyone’s situations,” Hole said.

Breaks during the school year hold different importance for international students. Thanksgiving recess makes it difficult for students to travel home and back to Columbia in a week. With the short notice of the announcement to switch to online classes after Thanksgiving, many students from outside the U.S. are scrambling to make plans to go home for the semester, and are unsure if they’ll be allowed, or able, to return.

Junior Ainhoa Maqueda is from Spain and had planned to stay in Columbia for fall break and go home for winter break instead. The sudden switch to online classes forced her to quickly make plans to travel home for the remainder of the semester and return for the spring semester.

According to MU Admissions, over 2,000 MU students are from outside the U.S. Maqueda said that she has received little to no help on how to coordinate travel during the holidays. The MU International Center is typically in charge of visas, recommendations and resources for traveling home, but Maqueda said they have not been reaching out to students.

“They should have been more interested in our plans,” Maqueda said. “They were not helping my situation as much as I had hoped.”

On top of the stress of planning a last-minute trip abroad, Maqueda is worried about returning to campus in January due to rising COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and Spain.

“Am I going to have to make the decision of not seeing my family [or] not being able to come back?” Maqueda said. “I have been trying to contact the International Center, but I have gotten no answers.”

While Maqueda wishes she had been given more guidance from MU, she said she is glad the decision was made regardless of its short notice. Maqueda is now able to travel home three weeks before she was originally planning to.

While MU's reactions to rising COVID-19 cases were intended to keep students safe, the short notice affected students from in and out of state and caused stressful situations to become more difficult, in some scenarios. Despite these changes, most students from around the world respect MU’s decision to move online for the remainder of fall semester.

Edited by Sophie Stephens | sstephens@themaneater.com

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