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(Not) Home for Thanksgiving

Writer and Photographer: Jenna Wirtz

For the Students not Going Home this Thanksgiving

Whether you are in class, walking around campus, or grabbing coffee with a friend, chances are that the topic of your Thanksgiving break plans came up this week. Whether that is to a relative’s house nearby, driving up north or down south, or hopping on a plane, many Biola students are going home for the holiday. Although the break is only 5 days long, including the weekend, students return home to family and friends for a momentary refuge from the busyness of the fall semester.

There are many reasons why a student may choose not to return home. A common response was a financial concern. Biola has 541 international students and a substantial amount of out-of-state students as well. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, ticket prices have increased by 42.9% between September 2021 and September 2022.

In addition to financial concerns, some students simply prefer spending the holiday with good friends instead of family.

Junior cinema and media arts major, Aaron Margosian has spent the last 8 years eating Thanksgiving with friends as opposed to family. Up until coming to Biola, he was an AMMO troop in the military and was stationed in Italy. He chose to use his leave time to go home for Christmas, as opposed to thanksgiving.

He mentioned that he was invited into a few Biola friends’ homes for thanksgiving this year, but he cited intimidation and social exhaustion as why he declined their invites. This year, he spent the day with his roommate, and they will be partaking in an all-day “Lord of the Rings” marathon, under the refuge of a homemade fort in their home.

“If I want a relaxing holiday, I could just sit in a fort with my homie,” Margosian said.

While he might not need a plane to get home to Colorado, he does not think a 12-hour drive is worth going home for a few days, “If Thanksgiving [break] was a week-long maybe…”.

With break being so short, it makes sense why many students who live close and far opt to stay on campus.

Junior cinema and media arts major, Josh Vallesteros is a 2,000-mile trip from home.

“Some of us can’t afford to go home,” he said candidly.

Honolulu, Hawaii is where Vallesteros calls home. With Christmas being only a few weeks out, there isn’t a big draw to venturing off the mainland for Thanksgiving dinner, and the high-ticket prices are not helping.

Last year, due to COVID restrictions, traveling home to Hawaii was not even an option. For Thanksgiving dinner, he found his unlikely hosts while he was photographing a stuffed shark for a photography class in his freshman year. A couple walked by and joked with him about the stuffed animal, to which Vallesteros explained he was not using a person as a model because of COVID. This led to a friendship with them, and they invited Vallesteros into their home for Thanksgiving the coming year.

This year he is hosting a Friendsgiving, a common gathering among young adults where you have a Thanksgiving meal shared with friends as opposed to family. Sometimes, Friendsgiving is supplemental, or additional to the typical traditions of Thanksgiving day.

Being far from home over break offers students a chance to create their own traditions, an important part of growing up. For many, Thanksgiving is not the highlight of the holiday season, so it does not bother them to spend it apart from their family.

Junior psychology major, Josh Sallee says that Thanksgiving has never been a big deal for him. For the last two years, he has opted to stay around campus. He is happy to be hanging out at Biola this week as the campus empties out serving as a campus safety gate attendant and cadet, earning some extra cash for the upcoming Christmas season.

“I’m surprised at how many people are going home,” Sallee says.

Although these students are more than content to be here over break, be mindful that there may be students who are longing to go home this week and can not. In Biola’s family-centric environment, it can feel difficult to choose to stay on campus during such a communal holiday, whether that is for mental health, convenience, financial, or other reasons. There are a sea of stories in the student body here, and for many students, home is far, far away.

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