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Students Drop Books, Ready for Break

Some hit the beaches, while others get work done

By Brian Loux

Associate Features Editor

With winter weather finally appearing to have drawn its last breath, students are eagerly awaiting the beginning of spring break. And while many will leave the MIT campus, some will still remain involved with the Institute.

The women’s crew team, for instance, will travel as a team to Cocoa Beach, Fla., for training. Team captain Jessica L. Wargo ’04 said that the team decided on the trip over the standard winter training trip.

“I think it’s a good move because the river’s still frozen and we can’t practice in the basin outside of the boat house,” she said. “And it’s good to get away from the cold.” Aside from training, Wargo said they expect to have one day off to go around the beaches.

Undergraduate Associate President-elect Pius A. Uzamere II ’04 will brush up on his politics in preparation for the MIT Washington D.C. Summer Internship Program. “We’ll be touring the city and interviewing with possible employers,” he said. “I’m really excited about the trip.”

Still others will stay in Cambridge for the break -- either out of their own choosing or to catch up on work. This applies to faculty as well as students. “I’m going to stay here and write a book chapter,” said Martin F. Polz, a professor of civil and environmental engineering. He has worked on the book for some time, but he says that “it’s nice to have a block of uninterrupted time in which to write.”

Julie B. Norman, the associate dean of academic resources and programming, said she will stay at MIT to “catch up on the piles on my desk and do my own self-evaluation for the year.” She says that she dreads this time of year as a former faculty member. Now I don’t get spring break off anymore, she said. “But at least it will be quiet.”

ASB enters seventh year

Alternative Spring Break celebrates its seventh year with its first excursion outside the Northern Hemisphere. The program, which offers opportunities for students to participate in week-long public service activities, includes trips to many parts of the U.S. as well as Puerto Rico and Paraguay.

“Around 80 people participate each year, and we have to turn away dozens more who apply to participate,” said ASB President Amy L. Meadows ’03. The jobs range from teaching students to hands-on construction.

For participants, the draw of the program is the chance to see change. “It was an awesome, if slightly overwhelming, experience,” Meadows, a three-time veteran of the program, said. “You’ve gotten to know a group of 12 students in depth, and you have a tangible impact on a community.”

“I liked the trip to West Virginia last year,” said Diana L. Lam ’04. “It was eye-opening and inspiring to go out and see the changes that you make.”

Victory and defeat in Florida planning

For many students, spring break revolves around travel to exotic locations. These travels can become almost an ordeal for the involved parties, to plan a beach trip on a student budget while classes continue. The results can be as different as night and day.

Lisa M. Walters ’04 is eager to travel to Florida for the break. “I’m excited,” she said. “I’ve never been to Florida before.” Walters joins a group of seven others who are travelling by car to Daytona Beach, Fla. “I’m spending about $300 for [travel and room and board,] which would have been the cost of a plane ticket,” she said.

Daniel G. Oreper ’04, however, would prefer to forget about Florida for a while. Oreper led an initiative to get himself and six of his friends to Florida by any means necessary. “First, we wanted to fly to Florida, but we found that it cost too much,” he said. “Then we wanted to drive, but that would be too much time out of our trip and a rental car and gas would cost too much.”

Oddly enough, both groups started planning their trips around the same time. Walters’ group started three weeks ago, and Oreper’s group two and a half. “We only needed a place to stay so we found a beach house first” because their group would rely on their own cars, Walters said.

Oreper said that the cars his friends owned would not make it to Florida, so they focused on travel instead. Other plans that his group floated around were renting five-man RV (for seven people) and taking the train.

“Eventually, [Andrew C. Francis ’04] decided work and family were more pressing than the trip, and that sparked the group’s downfall,” Oreper said. When it became evident that the trip would not be as a large group, people began to bow out, he said.

While Walters is anxious to start the trip, Oreper said he felt “docile and disappointed.” Oreper said that “there’s nothing I wanted more than to sit on the beach staring at things on the beach.”

Not totally defeated, Oreper says he will plan a trip to Florida for the first week of summer immediately after his return from break.

Break not affected by terror

Many predicted that an increased terror threat would result in a dip in business over the spring break holiday season. At MIT, this has not seemed to be the case.

Of the people interviewed, very few of them said that terrorism played into the planning of their trip. Of those who said it did, none said that it was detrimental enough to change their plans.

“Security is a lot tighter now [at airports],” said Paul A. Wanda ’04, who is traveling to Europe for the break. “There could be an added risk with the war,” he said, “but I am not going to be safer in America than in London.”

“We have discussed emergency [and] contingency plans with all of our coordinators, but all of our trips are continuing as planned,” Meadows said.

Some students felt that the “college bubble” and being young may have contributed to the nonchalance. “It’s probably because [students] think nothing could happen to them,” said Yu Zhou ’06.

“It was less of a concern than driving and renting,” Walters said. “It’s spring break. People want to have fun. That’s the overriding mentality.”