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Tuesday, July 05, 2022

Students experience first Spring Break since pandemic shutdowns

Two years after COVID-19 outbreaks, students navigated travels amid changing regulations

Students enjoyed their first Spring Break since March 2020 exploring Florida, traveling out of state and visiting hometowns. As this year’s Spring Break commences, so does yet another unexpected global conflict. 

Two years ago, UF students returned from Spring Break to a fully online university. The pandemic postponed flights, canceled events and had students studying from their beds until Fall 2021, when in-person classes returned. 

Last year, UF students did not partake in their long-awaited Spring Break. Administration canceled the break “for the purpose of making the Spring semester as successful and healthy as possible” and instead gave students an extra week of Winter Break. 

This year, students’ mid-semester break from March 5 to 13 came amid the ongoing Russia-Ukraine invasion. 

Milo Murrell, 23, a UF international student from the Royal Holloway, University of London, was eager to explore more of Florida .

“I think it's really easy to be here and be able to put the blinkers on and not think about it,” Murrell said. “Sitting in Florida, surrounded by palm trees, millions of miles away from anything.”

She hadn’t experienced a typical spring since the beginning of the pandemic. 

During the break, Murrell and four other international students enjoyed the beach under the Fort Lauderdale sun. 

“The internationals are really keen on seeing Florida,” Murrell said. 

After her quick stint in Fort Lauderdale, Murrell visited more beaches in the Florida Keys. 

She said COVID-19, now being treated like the flu by UF, was not a main concern. 

UF recommended that students get their booster shots before going on Spring Break in a UF Health Facebook post released on March 1.

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The post also recommended travelers choose outdoor destinations, adhere to travel guidelines that require the use of masks and plan ahead for COVID-19 testing requirements. 

“I haven’t even considered COVID as a factor in my Spring Break,” Murrell said. “I’m not concerned that I’m going to have my AirBnB canceled because suddenly there are lockdowns.”

Some students are using the break to educate themselves on the Russia-Ukraine conflict happening overseas. 

“We are in the middle of an informational pandemic,” said Ukrainian international student and admin of the @ufukraine Instagram account Roksolana Mykytiuk. 

As for COVID-19, Mykytiuk believes that everyone has their priorities. Talk about pandemic has lost the fervor it once had, and it is time for the Russian invasion of Ukraine to get more coverage.

Erin Hu, a 21-year-old digital arts and sciences senior, sympathized with those affected by the Russia-Ukraine war and was fortunate her spring break plans were not affected by the conflict.

Hu and three others also secured a rental house for the week-long break and visited Joshua Tree National Park in California.

“I'm definitely excited to experience that California desert vibe,” Hu said. “Plus to just relax, rejuvenate and reconnect.”

Hu has not experienced a single Spring Break the entire time she’s been a student at UF because she took a gap semester during what would’ve been her first Spring Break on campus. 

Hu and her group of friends contemplated leaving the country but decided against it because of COVID-19. She did not want to catch the virus and complicate her return to school.

Even if this year’s Spring Break does cause a COVID-19 spike, Hu believes it won’t change much in terms of policies.

“I don't think UF takes COVID seriously,” Hu said. “Even if it does get bad again, I'm sure it will be swept under the rug and moved on from.”

Gabrielle Adekunle, Change Party’s Minority Leader in the Senate, noticed changes compared with her breaks as a freshman and sophomore, when COVID-19 was first beginning and later in full-swing.

“I’m actually able to go out and do things and enjoy Spring Break and not feel as guilty about it,” she said. “Now we have the vaccines, we have masks and everything so we're able to properly protect ourselves.”

Adekunle, 21, feeling safer with COVID-19 regulations, was looking forward to spending time with her family after the Spring SG elections.

“I definitely felt a lot better about this Spring Break and getting to enjoy it,” she said. 

Student Body Treasurer-elect Sierra Kantamneni, 21, also usually uses the break to relax with family. After winning the Spring election alongside President-elect Lauren Lemasters and Vice President-elect Daniel Badell, the three wanted to take a break before starting the transition into office, she said.

“With elections and everything like that I was really tired, so I wanted a week to myself,” she said. “I’m excited to go back and hear everyone's stories and what they did and where they traveled. It was a really good break.”

Contact Fernando Figueroa or Maia Botek at ffigueroa@alligator.org or mbotek@alligator.org. Follow them on Twitter @fernfigue or @BotekMaia

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Maia Botek

Maia Botek is a third-year journalism major and Spanish minor covering student government this semester. Maia is from South Florida and enjoys the beach, spending time with her friends and learning about the environment in her free time.


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