Are one-day breaks helping students’ mental health?

Georgia Lodewyk—Staff Writer

It’s an impromptu road trip to the West Coast with some friends, or a long drive to spend quality time at home with family. It’s putting love into action, leaving campus with a group of students to serve Christ in a brand-new place and capacity. At Dordt University, spring break is a different experience for everyone–, a week and a half blocked out that is often at the forefront of students’ minds, something to look forward to throughout the semester. This year, because of the COVID-19, it’s missing from the academic calendar.

“It’s certainly not something we ever want to have to do again. We all need that chunk of time in March to get away. Just with the pandemic it doesn’t seem wise,” Robert Taylor, dean of students, said. 

This spring marks almost a year since the initial COVID-19 lockdown that caused Dordt to close its campus doors and move the remainder of the semester online. During this pandemic the goal for Dordt faculty has been to keep students here in person, and sometimes, Taylor explains, there are some things that cannot be the same in order to make this happen.

The solution created last semester was to establish five “break days” throughout the spring semester: designated days with no scheduled classes in order to compensate for the elimination of spring break. Taylor said this decision was not an easy one, especially when they were unaware of how the COVID-19 pandemic would effect the world months later.

“You can’t have both, you can’t plan for both, so you gotta choose one now,” Taylor said. “You can roll the dice and hope that everything works out for a long break in March, or you can hedge and make sure that you do get five days off for every student. And so, that’s what we elected to do.”

Even with these days set in place, some Dordt students have still felt the absence of spring break.

As a sophomore nursing major, Alinda Brouwer has exams almost weekly this spring semester and misses looking forward to a long break. 

“It’s that time where you can find rest. It’s hard to continue to want to keep being as diligent when there’s no time for breaks, and the only thing in sight is the next exam,” she said.

On February 15, Dordt students’ only long weekend ended, and the rest of the breaks this spring fall in the middle of the week.

Contributed Photo

“Having one day off in the middle of the week does not serve the same purpose as a spring break,” Dordt freshman Miranda Vander Berg said. “We are given assignments the day before our day off that are due the day after our day off.”

Taylor said that this decision to put them in the middle of the week was purposeful. They wanted to guarantee students time outside of class to recharge, and also to discourage people from traveling across states and countries.

“If we do over a weekend… we saw with the February break, a lot of people left. So then there was concern: how far did they go, were they safe where they went, what did they bring back?” Taylor said.

“It’s been very hard to feel that I don’t have time to invest in my family and myself and my education I just feel like there’s a lot of imbalance…  It’s hard to find that balance when the thing that’s being prioritized is your education, when you should be prioritizing your mental health as well, but there’s no time for that,” Brouwer said. 

During the pandemic, Dordt added student support for both mental and spiritual wellness, with two new Pastoral Care Assistants, Gail Ashmore and Angela Perigo. Dordt hopes students can make the most of their time on campus, even if they are not able to travel elsewhere on break.

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