Parents Talk: Winter Break Controversy ’12/’13

We’re now four weeks into break with one left to go. As a senior back on campus, I can tell you it seems a lot of people have found excuses to come back early. Is break too long, or does it offer the optimal amount of time to get a job, an internship, work on one’s thesis, or do something else productive? Regardless of how you feel, your parents sure have opinions. Some gems from the “parents_talk” listserv:

“At this moment we Californians are blessed with a relaxing, sunny (as in no snow) riotous (bumpy backroad stand-up-in-the-jeep) vacation with our daughter who is also preparing for her upcoming “internship” when we return to the Bay Area. It couldn’t be sweeter. That said, in speaking to her about the viewpoints expressed here, she’d gladly “trade” several winter break days for a couple of extended weekends with no classes to get on top of the voluminous workload at school…just because she loves it so much!!” – P’15

“If you live in a rural college town that is also dormant for part of Wes’s break, there are no museums open. Many local businesses also close. The local college kids sew up any internships, via long-standing program relationships. Sleeping, movies, reading, and walks are fine for a few weeks, as is visiting, but eventually sibs and high school friends head back to school. And the Wes kid – is – still – on – break. It’s like waiting for Godot.” – P’15

“My daughter works SO hard on her double majors at Wes that she both needs and benefits from the downtime over winter break. I know she is going back re-charged and ready to give her best for the spring semester and have no problem with the well deserved rest.” – P’?

“The time away has afforded my son the opportunity to experience unique travel and service programs related to his life and learning at Wes. He is currently in Africa, and is working with the people in rural areas, as well as with the small businesses looking to launch successful entrepreneurial ventures. I think this is an important part of his learning experience.” – P’14

Also of note, Roth mentioned “thinking now about new January programs” in his latest blog post. Read past the jump for more thoughts from our parents. Also, as always, please share your thoughts in the comments section.

“How does one hear about these programs? Are they very expensive? We are also struggling with the idea of a March break of two weeks, whether to pay for travel home, etc. The career center (according to my son) does not seem to have much to recommend in terms summer internships, jobs, etc.” – P’?

PRO:

“Our daughter is using her time to rejuvenate, write poetry ( her passion and major study area), spend time with family on vacations away and interning with a prominent media company on tour, something she competed for, knowing she’d have time to focus freely on it.” – P’15

“Also, the time can be used for internships. My daughter, who graduated last year, was able to use the time to do a internship in January, in the field in which she eventually got a job. The internship helped her to determine what she was interested in, and helped prepare her for interviews and helped her to get contacts in the field. We’re not complaining now that she is 7 months into her job – and wishing she had a long winter break !” – P’12 (yes, that’s right, ’12)

“My 2012 graduate has been working steadily since July (even Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve) and he remembers with fondness those nice long college breaks. On two of his Wes breaks he got to take 10 day trips — Birthright to Israel and one to CA to visit a Wes friend. Another year we got to take a family trip that I now realize was the last of its kind for awhile. Many of his high school friends found jobs during the break often with employers from previous summers. Others did volunteer work or internships. And there was lots of time to hang out and slow down. Now I wish I had gotten him to help me more with home projects since he will never have time for that again.” – another P’12

“A relentless change of activities and projects does not, in my opinion, contribute to education but more so to stress level and frenetic semesters. How is this meant to enhance the educational process? . Of course there are exceptions, but in general, I think staying in one place for longer periods of time, at least as a valid option, would contribute to the students’ peace of mind and senses of security and continuity. I always remember my mother, who was not a Buddhist btw, saying how you could learn almost everything in the world from studying a blade of grass. Time to relax and contemplate is essential to a well-rounded and healthy emotional state, especially in these troubled times.” – P’?

“This month my daughter, who is a senior, didn’t really get a break. She spent the entire time skyping with Grad School profs, studying for the GREs, and working on her senior thesis – which many of her Wesleyan friends did as well. Her official break ended last week, when she went on a mandatory field trip with other Wesleyan students[…] My daughter is hardly an overachiever – she just had a lot to do and she needed that time. If she hadn’t had those activities, I would have certainly encouraged her to use the time to rest, or get out and move, do something creative, work, follow non-academic pursuits for the first time in at least a year (she had an internship last summer), volunteer or use her brain and figure something out[…] For kids who truly cannot figure out what to do – it seems like a “May-mester” type option, where short courses are offered or trips are offered might be an alternative[…] But it’s not going to be free and it’s not going to be free to provide heat for a campus in the NE in January. There are problems at Wesleyan – but I wouldn’t put one year’s long winter break at the top of the list.” – P’13

“As I recall, when I was an undergrad in the early Seventies, the winter intercession was five to six weeks long. One year I volunteered to work in the American Friends Service Committee low income project in Dorchester, Mass. It was a turning point in my education, as all of the theory I had been studying in the College of Social Studies came to life and since we lived according to the life style of our clients, I experienced a little bit of urban poverty, as well as how to organize a community for social action. I returned to campus with increased self confidence, a realistic understanding of social movements, and came face to face with the Mayor’s office who had zero interest in helping the poor. On top of that on the weekend night that we had free, my friends at Harvard and BU introduced me to the music coffeehouse scene in Cambridge and the student rush seats at Boston Symphony. I would hope that today’s generation would take as much advantage of winter intercession as I did forty years ago.” – P’15

“I think that those of us on the West coast, or farther away, especially appreciate the longer break. We are also in California. My son was able to play in a bell choir that he had been a part of for many years (filling in for someone out of town), visited Mexico with family, worked on a play that he is writing, sent out resumes for some summer internships, and spent much needed down time with family. His roommate was able to go home for a visit–home is in China.” – P’15

CONS

“This is the second year I have seen this very good debate. I think it is time for the administration to respond and explain their rationale as well as take up the banner in benchmarking against other similar institutions. Parents have spoken, now let’s hear what the administration has to say.” – P’?

“When you’re two hours from the nearest city, that’s kinda hard to do. Not every Wes students has access to such experiences over their breaks.” – P’15

“I respect that the break works for many of you. But it is not a one-size-fits-all situation, as someone just mentioned. It appears that many perhaps most of you who have positive experiences live a long way away, or are able to help finance travel, either family travel or that related to an internship. My daughter gets some financial aid, and is working at a job in the business office of a public radio station, where she has been able to get part-time work on a number of occasions. She is happy to have the job, and the money, but it does not break new ground for her, whereas her studies do. I would like to see the break shortened by a week on each end. I don’t expect this to happen. But my perspective is the school lets the majority of its students hang out to dry during this 5-6 week, and ought to at least make some academic provision for those who would like a shorter break from studies.” – P’14

5 thoughts on “Parents Talk: Winter Break Controversy ’12/’13

  1. 2014

    I have found our break entirely too long! Although it has afforded me the opportunity to travel after studying abroad this break, in the past I have simply stayed home and worked at a minimum wage job (which is fairly depressing). I don’t have the money to take any trips over these breaks, and I have found that I am far too busy with finals to take the necessary time to search for internships or other opportunities

  2. bored_15

    Some new programs through Wes would be awesome. I totally understand people not wishing to be forced into anything during the intersession, but as a student who wants to do something productive but couldn’t find anything for the short, awkward time period, I wish Wes had some Wes student-only offerings. For 60k a year, why not?

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