While most students are able to take advantage of school breaks as an opportunity to head home and unwind, a select number of Whitman College students remain on campus even while residence halls close. During winter and spring vacations, students who are not able to make other accommodations are housed in residence halls. In addition to international students, athletes and domestic students who live too far away to travel home are grouped in dorms with many empty rooms.
Whereas many colleges charge students for housing accommodations over breaks, Whitman offers the service free of charge during the academic year. Sophomore international student Vicky Su has stayed on campus during all the breaks throughout her time at Whitman and believes the amenity to be a great convenience.
“I was quite lucky because [last year during Winter Break] I didn’t have to move because while I was living in Prentiss. There were more international students living in Prentiss than in other dorms, so all the other girls who lived in other dorms had to move into Prentiss and then all the guys who lived in other dorms had to move into Douglas. And then that’s what happened last year for Christmas Break. For Spring Break I think almost everyone had to move to North,” said Su.
The dorms where students stay during breaks change from year to year, based on unoccupied room availability and where the most students remaining on campus are already located. No student will be left alone in a dorm for safety reasons. Although some dorms are left open for those students who need a place to stay, most other campus resources like food services, the Welty Health Center and Penrose Library are closed during breaks.
“It’s very quiet, unless you’re playing a sport and have a group to be with. It’s very quiet for the international students. And not all of them stay. A number of them make plans or go visit somebody, but some stay here and work,” said Associate Dean of Students Nancy Tavelli.
Every international student is given the option of having a friendship family, a family from the community with whom they are able to build a relationship in order to support their transition to school in the United States. During breaks in particular, this service helps international students maintain a sense of community even while much of the Whitman population is away, and campus is quiet.
“I think it is a good idea that you keep the residence halls open during the breaks. I stayed on campus [during Thanksgiving Break] and mostly I hung out with my friendship family that’s part of the international student program. So they emailed me and invited me to their Thanksgiving dinner, and they invited me to go hiking,” said senior exchange student Joy He who lives in the Asian Studies Interest House.
Although the college allows students who need to remain on campus to stay in dorms over breaks free of charge, international students who do so over the summer must pay additional money for that service.