Students plan for spring break amid lessened COVID policies

By Bailey Allen, Former news editor

As spring break approaches, Emerson students have adjusted to the rollback of COVID-19 restrictions for the first time in three years—with some planning to finally travel for leisure or home to see family for the first time since the pandemic began.

For some international students, a journey home is a long one, and they have to decide whether or not it is worth it for them to book the plane ticket. Lila Alonso Limongi, a first-year visual and media arts major from São Paulo, Brazil, stayed in Boston over Thanksgiving Break; she wasn’t ready to experience that level of isolation again.

“There was almost no one in the halls and it was hard having to cook all my meals,” Alonso Limongi said in an interview with the Beacon. “I love to cook, don’t get me wrong, but it gets rough after you go down to the kitchen to cook your fourth meal of rice and chicken.”

Alonso Limongi did not want to go through the hassle of a 12-to-13-hour travel day including two separate flights, so she stayed in her Little Building dorm room for the duration of the break.

“I was so over it by the end [of Thanksgiving break] that me and my parents just decided it wasn’t worth it to have me spend a whole entire week here by myself in the halls and I didn’t think many people would stay, so we thought it was best for me to go home,” she said.

Alonso Limongi did not travel much during the pandemic and she has to adjust to the differing mask policies in the countries she’s traveling between, she said. In Brazil, people are still required to wear masks in airports, unlike the United States, which loosened its airport masking restriction in April 2022.

“Coming to Boston was my first trip outside of the tri-state area of [the nearby Brazilian] states in quite a while,” she said. “It does feel good [to be able to go home with fewer restrictions]. In a way, I feel like it would be safer if we did have more restrictions just because COVID is still a thing, but it is kind of nice to be able to not worry about it.”

Alonso Limongi said she misses her family immensely, and emphasized how excited she was to be heading back home, especially as an international student.

“For us, it’s very different than for [domestic students] where you’re always in your country,” she said. “And yes, you miss home, but you still have things that remind you of home, and for us, it’s a totally different thing.”

Another international student, Leonard Zhang, a sophomore communication studies major from Beijing, China, will not be making the trek back home. Instead, he will be traveling domestically for the first half of the break and staying in the dorms for the latter half. Although he wanted to go back to China, since the last time he was there was during the summer, Zhang said he didn’t want to travel all the way there to just turn around and fly back to Boston in a couple of days.

“It’s not in my plan to go to China because it’s such a short break,” Zhang said in an interview. “If you want to fly back, it’s going to take probably 16 hours or more and with the time difference, it’s just not worth it.”

Although Zhang would not have to quarantine in China since the country did away with its “Zero-COVID” policy in December, he said he still wanted to skip the overseas flying hassle and will head to Columbus, Ohio, where he plans to visit high school friends who attend Ohio State University.

When he gets back to campus, he said he’ll have to endure the next few days without a meal plan, ordering Uber Eats and buying his own groceries instead. His three suitemates will be gone, so he will figure out his food situation alone.

“It would be good if they could have [the Dining Center] open, but since they don’t, I have to buy other food,” Zhang said.

Ruby Mathis, a first-year journalism major from Seattle, Washington, will be flying home and then to New York with her boyfriend for spring break, a sign of a slow return to pre-pandemic traveling.

“My sophomore, junior, or senior year of high school, I didn’t do anything because of COVID,” Mathis said in an interview. “Definitely not on spring breaks or for winter breaks, or anything like that.”

Although she won’t have to pay for lodging since she will stay with family in Brooklyn, Mathis said she noticed that flights from Seattle to New York were still significantly cheaper than what they were before the pandemic.

“I think our tickets were maybe like $250 round trip, and I want to say, pre-COVID from Seattle to New York, it’s probably an average of $350 to $400, not on a super popular weekend,” Mathis said.

In the city, Mathis and her boyfriend plan to visit Cornelia Street in Manhattan’s West Village neighborhood as it’s referenced in Taylor Swift’s “Lover” album; they plan to enjoy a happy break away from school and its responsibilities.