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Phases of winter break

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In the last fourteen days of the fall quarter, which includes both Dead Week and final exam week, I began to feel a little homesick, entering what I like to think of as the first phase of winter break. Maybe it was due to the building pressure of completing final papers and the increasingly intense studying for exams. Maybe it was due to being away from home since the beginning of September. Either way, I felt an increased longing for the comfort of my home in my simply southern and idyllic town on the east coast.  

Finishing each final assignment and exam resulted in another gratifying wave of relief and weight being lifted off the shoulders. With all my exams finished, I was truly feeling exhilarated and free (reminiscent, in a way, of “Harry Potter”’s Dobby the elf), which are perfect emotions for entering the second phase of winter break: excitement to return home.

After studying for hours in a true “home away from home” — Green Library — I emerged from the cocoon of studying into a social butterfly, catching up with friends and checking Instagram feeds. However, socializing with fewer preoccupations (compared to the rest of the quarter) made me realize how fun hanging out is when there isn’t as much work to do. The night before I came back home, I spent time with a lot of people I hadn’t had a chance to in the business of the quarter, and I was struck again (as I am every quarter) by how much fun being on campus with friends is. With this realization, I entered the third phase of winter break, which includes simultaneously being excited to go home but a little sad to part with friends until the next year.

As soon as you step off the plane into your local airport, though, the fourth phase begins: the excitement of being at home for three whole weeks! I found my break to be full of time to spend with loved ones, going to a couple favorite restaurants, seeing high school friends for a biannual meetup, doing some shopping and of course, goofing off.  

Phase five entails the immersion into full-on winter break mode, waking up later than usual, not stressing out over p-sets and eating your mom’s scrumptious food. The weather was preternaturally warm in my hometown, so we weren’t bundled up when going out, the icing on the proverbial winter break cake.

Lastly, upon the impending return to campus for the glorious start to a new quarter, year and decade, the sixth phase of winter break begins. I find the sixth phase to be the most ambivalent, since I feel excited to start a new set of classes, see friends and begin engaging with campus activities again, but a bit sad to leave the comfort of home. However, it’s important to take all these feelings and channel them into self-encouragement. After all, even though there’s no place like home, there’s no place quite like Stanford.

Contact Sarayu Pai at smpai918 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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