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How to Make the Most of Your Staycation

10 Tips for taking the time to think back and look forward.

By Emily Stern, Bard College

When you’re buried under a pile of papers and your mind is occupied memorizing formulas and dates, being asked what your plans are for an upcoming break can feel like seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. However, sometimes when you have so much schoolwork still left to finish it can be difficult to manage your workload and making plans for the break.  As my friends revealed plans of road-trips, Harry Potter World, and European adventures, it was hard not to feel jealous.  I would be spending the next month at home.  Driving back to NYC with a friend also home for break, we started talking about all things we want to do while we are home and all the ways we are going to make sure that we don’t let the break go to waste.

staycation 2

1) Reflect on the past semester and ask yourself what you missed about your town

Going to a school in the middle of nowhere without a college town, I’m embarrassed to say good food was on the top of the list of what I missed the most. Often at the cafeteria my mind would wander to memories of Shake Shack burgers and NY Chinese food. Not entirely intentionally, a list of restaurants, diners, and food carts formed in my mind.  (If you are in NY check out: Di Fara pizza, the Waffles & Dinges Truck, sip some hot chocolate from Jacques Toress under the Brooklyn Bridge, Sweet Chick, Dogwood, and The Farm on Adderley).

I missed more than just food though I promise! One of my favorite things to do during the winter in NYC is to go to Coney Island. It’s nice to walk around the boardwalk with some Nathan’s fries or if you’re up to it some soft-served pistachio ice cream  (ok, more food).  Coney island is hauntingly beautiful in the winter and a great place to walk around and take photos. If you can, go and watch (or maybe participate in?) the polar bear plunge on a Sunday.

2) Now that you have places you want to go (or EAT at least) turn these mouth-watering fantasies into plans with friends from home.

The truth about college is that it helps you realize which friendships from high school are ones you want to maintain and which ones were perhaps not the healthiest.  Sometimes having new friends at school gives you the courage to put a little less weight on friendships from home that once caused you a lot of stress.  I also know that space from the people you have spent a number of years with can help you see the best parts in them. So coming home it is nice to go out for coffee and hear about their semester and to see the ways that they have changed too.

3) Give yourself some guilt-free time to be a vegetable

During high school I would get sick over every single break (Fall, Winter, Spring, you name it) and would spend a lot of time in bed watching TV. After 20 episodes of Scrubs I always felt frustrated with myself, knowing that I wasted so much time. This break I made a promise to myself that I was going to watch as much TV as I like for the first 5 days and then really limit it for the rest. I think it is important to make a plan with TV so that while you are watching it you can have some guilt-free while also making sure that the bulk of time in which you could be out DOING something isn’t been spent staring at a screen.

4) Make a list of books you want to read over break

Almost everyone has a book in the back of their mind that if tackled would make them feel extremely accomplished.  Maybe there was a book you began to read  for class this semester but did not get the chance to  finish or a book you swore you would read before you saw the new movie of it. For New Yorkers, take this book on the train with you, get to a café where you have plans early and just read. Sometimes going out and doing something alone can serve as a reminder that you are an independent adult and you can enjoy being out in the world by yourself.

5) Give yourself a project

Born and raised in Brooklyn, my friends at school constantly tease me for not knowing how to drive. So over this break, another license-less brooklynite and I are going to sit through that pesky 6-hour course and take lessons together. Giving yourself a concrete project keeps you from feeling bored. Perhaps you are a short story writer who wants to try writing something a little longer, or a designer who has never tried their hand at menswear— now is the time to challenge yourself and to try something new.

6) Take care of yourself

If Thanksgiving break wasn’t already filled with doctors’ appointments, PLEASE finally go and see someone about your wisdom teeth and stomach pain! If after a semester or two you catch yourself wondering if you are at the right school or if you are studying what you really want to study, don’t just tell yourself that you can deal with it for the next few semesters or years— you only go to college once and you deserve an experience greater than just “getting by.” This break is the time to think about what changes you want to make.

7) Spend time with your family

With Hanukkah in the past, my family had no definitive family time scheduled for the break. My brother’s 22nd birthday gave us an excuse to all go out to dinner together and to come home and reminisce (and eat cake). Staying in with your family, and going out and doing something together are both important. Going out and doing something as a family like seeing a movie or going to a game (we are seeing the Nets!!!) is a great way to make new family memories. I would argue though that staying in and just hanging out is even more fun. Sometimes it isn’t until we come home that we realize how much we really missed it.

8) Think Ahead

Whether this means looking for jobs and internships, working on your resume or another semester of Orgo—take the time now to prepare yourself or get ahead. Deadlines for internships are approaching and it can be difficult to focus on schoolwork and applying for summer work. Maybe take an hour and start looking now to see what opportunities are out there and which ones sound exciting to you and maybe skim through your textbook or start that novel for your lit class before you go back to school. ALSO, now is the time to start thinking about studying abroad! Ask yourself what you want to study and where you have always dreamed of going, look around this site (obviously) and see what advice the study-abroad veterans have for you.

9) Don’t let your brain melt or your excitement dwindle

Go out and have fun learning. Sounds cheesy, but when learning starts to feel like only  memorization and regurgitation, spending the day at the Met learning random facts about Tibetan art or Renaissance portraits can serve as a helpful reminder of why you wanted to be in school in the first place.  If you are in NY go to the big museums to see  both new and famous art (Met, MAD, The Guggenheim) and for some good old- fashioned  nostalgia (The Natural History Museum). And if you don’t want to spend money wander around China town, little Italy, and Harlem for some actual CULTURE, especially if you like me, go to school in the incredibly beautiful but cultureless nowhereville.

10) Reflect

You’ve worked hard for months. Whether this past semester was your 1st or your 7th, this semester was unique, a lot happened, and in many ways you are different from the person who walked into class on the first day. There are parts  you wish you could change and moments  you wish you could relive over and over. New Years is the time to be thankful for all the great things you had the chance to experience this year and to realize what you would like to be different next year. Take the time to think back and look forward.

Emily Stern

Bard College | 1 story

Sophomore at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, NY. Studying Photography and Psychology (but is equally passionate about writing!). Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. Loves to read, take photos, write, play guitar, knit scarves, and watch trailers.

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