Students flee to warmer climates for spring break

By Maria Scanga, Senior Staff Writer

As COVID-19 cases continue to steadily decline in the U.S., spring break trips were safer this year. Capped off with nine inches of snowfall in the Pittsburgh area, students returned from heat and humidity to bitter cold and snowy streets.

Alyssha Bowers, a senior finance major, joined her roommates on a five-day trip to Miami Beach, Florida. Bowers said it was her first spring break trip during her time at Pitt, and chose Miami Beach after hearing about a friend’s plans to head south.

“We talked about where we were going and planned it all out in our roommate group chat, and chose Miami since we knew other people who were also going to Miami this year,” Bowers said. 

Rachel Wangler, a junior nursing major, spent a few days on the Las Vegas Strip with her boyfriend. The trip was a welcome surprise from him, and Wangler’s first spring break trip that hadn’t been impacted by the pandemic.

“This year has really been our first true spring break without being totally messed up by COVID-19, but I’m not someone that would normally go on a spring break trip,” Wangler said. “My boyfriend, Dylan, happened to surprise me with the trip to Las Vegas over my spring break and covered the plane ticket cost.” 

Despite the strip being a central location for drinking and gambling, Wangler, 20, said the duo spent more time being tourists — which included a show, shopping, sightseeing and even a day trip to the Grand Canyon.

“We got to go to a Cirque du Soleil show and had some really good food while out there, and also took a day trip out to the Grand Canyon which was very fun,” Wangler said. “My spring break was more about being a tourist to a new city than partying, I was just happy to get to go on a trip with Dylan and spend time with him.”

While many students use spring break as a reprieve from working and studying, others use the week off of school to volunteer. This is true for Melanie Williams, a junior chemistry major. Williams is a member of Cornerstone at Pitt, a Christian fellowship group that traveled to Arizona to visit a foster home near the Navajo Nation’s reservation. The group spends time with Native American children who come from abusive or traumatic home lives.

“We build relationships with them and get to know them, and it’s not just a foster home, it’s like a crisis center, almost,” Williams said. “They’re taken in and provided a bed, food, whatever they need, and we help give the staff a break.”

During her time in Arizona, Williams traveled around the area and visited the Grand Canyon and Horseshoe Bend. Spending time in a warmer climate meant she struggled with the transition back to Pittsburgh.

“It’s been a little sad to come back from being in Arizona where the weather was a little bit nicer,” Williams said. “It was also amazing to spend time on the reservation with the Native people there, so going from that then suddenly back to a big city was a lot.”

The weekend capping off this year’s week-long break also fell during daylight saving, which began last Saturday and created added stress for students like Wangler who traveled to a different time zone. Las Vegas is three hours behind Pittsburgh, but Wangler said she’s ready to get back to work.

“Dealing with the time zone difference and daylight savings made it hard to adjust back to normal, but I’m ready to get back to school and finish off the semester,” Wangler said. 

With inflation on the rise, gas prices and travel costs have also soared. For college students, money is a big factor in daily life, which can influence what spring break trips look like. For Bowers, the money for her trip came out of her savings.

“I pulled money out of my savings for the trip, but we all paid each other for the bigger costs and split Ubers,” Bowers said. “It’s hard to save at all because I had other expenses.”

Wangler said she’s frugal and always mindful to not overspend, which meant taking advantage of good deals, splitting costs with her boyfriend and only paying for her own things.

“For the most part, we split costs on the trip and alternated who paid for dinner and Ubers, and for anything more expensive we would just pay for ourselves,” Wangler said. “I’m a student and he works full time so we were just mindful to not do anything that we couldn’t manage personally, but we really just wanted to enjoy our trip and I think we found a good balance.”

There are now six weeks left in the spring semester, but the break from school felt necessary for students, according to Williams. She said that while she enjoyed her experience volunteering and assisting the foster home staff, she still felt rested and recharged.

“It was nice to not have to worry about exams or think about doing homework,” Williams said. “While it didn’t feel like a break the entire time, I still enjoyed it and I was very glad for the time off and away from school.”