Spring break at Camp Vassar exposes true human nature

Above is a visceral visual symbol of the desertion of campus over spring break. Where once students lounged on our plentiful benches, their absence has left wooden slats burdened not by body weight, but by the crushing weight of their purposeless existence. Courtesy of Nogwater via Flickr.

The film “Vanilla Sky” features a scene in which Tom Cruise runs through Times Square while it is devoid of life. Five years after seeing the movie, I understood the feeling evoked in that scene as I stood, without another soul in sight, in the middle of the College Center at noon on a Tuesday. Where rows of merchants and students usually interacted on “Tasty Tuesday,” I stood alone, accompanied only by the photo I had just taken of my shoes.

This was not my first time staying over an academic break, so I had some expectations. It always starts the same: You say goodbye to friends, seeing if any of them are staying over the break too, and then set about assembling the ragtag group of people-you-sort-of-know who will act as your only source of human interaction for the next 336 hours.

Vassar does not supply food during break, so for the first few days that becomes priority number one. I lacked a refrigerator, so I relied on non-perishables. I ordered food in bulk from the internet—tuna and cereal—but I would have to make do until they arrived. As part of our meal plan, Vassar supplies each student with 100 Arlington Bucks per semester. With that in mind and a backpack in tow, I set off to My Market.

One hundred dollars over 14 days is around seven dollars per day, which is a reasonable amount, especially with housing already covered. Luckily, I already had cookware saved from my previous break. Thus, I didn’t have to obtain acceptable pots and pans for cooking. On the other hand, my cookware was moldy so I needed cleaning supplies. By the time I had left Arlington and returned to campus, I had spent half of my Arlington Bucks. Sponges and dish soap, it turns out,

aren’t cheap.
My food situation resembled “The Mar

tian,” but for those who are unfamiliar, a few words are warranted: I bought potatoes. Potatoes,whilenotaperfectfood,areidealfor someone on a budget to tide themselves over for a few days. My plan was to boil one potato per day until the rest of my supplies arrived. Like most plans, it did not survive first contact with the enemy.

The enemy in this case was the stove in Jewett, the building I call home. The stove is electric—like all communal stoves on campus—except in this case it had no coils upon which to cook. This did not yet spell doom for my plans. You can cook potatoes in a microwave as long as you make sure no explosion occurs. This proved not to be an issue, not because I’m careful but rather because the microwave was also non-functional.

I feel compelled to say that it is rather strange that the college provides no food, cookware or appliances with which to cook, but that is neither here nor there. After traveling across the quad to a functional stove to boil my potatoes, I ate, then repeated this process until my tuna and cereal came through the post.

With my provisions all sorted out, my eating habits were established by the time that Dean Alamo-Pastrana announced a food pantry in Main for the second week—a strong statement by the college that it wouldn’t let its students starve for more than one week at a time.

Once your food situation is dealt with, the next problem becomes occupying your mind. If left unchecked, your neuroses can strike with a vengeance, whether it be leaving passive-aggressive notes, drinking in the shower or aggressively subtweeting an old flame. The important part is to avoid that stage by

keeping yourself busy.
I binged two seasons of “The Good Place,”

cleaned my room multiple times and read. The library, even though its operational hourswerelimitedtojust6andahalfperday during break, is an amazing resource. Let’s face it: Nobody has time to read for pleasure during the school year. We have an entire building next to us all the time filled with exquisite literature, but no time to use it. Spring break is made for avoiding the actual work you have to do, and the library conveniently fills those extra hours.

Several campus entities threw dinner parties, a symbiotic blend of commiserating and goodwill. Few things will unite a group of disparate people like providing them with food and company when they wouldn’t otherwise have any. Those dinner parties also give you a chance to get to know your ragtag group of spring break friends. Everyone has a story, and sometimes you can catalyze an interaction between people who would not otherwise meet. Even as break ends, and each member of this semi-exclusive club returns to their regular lives, we’ll always have this shared experience, this strange bond.

For better or worse, it’s now over. The Geece has reopened, the people have returned. Whether you are rested and rejuvenated or have exacerbated your burnout, time marches on to classes and homework. We will not forget each other however, that ragtag group and I. We will see each other at events or in the Geece with our friends of choice and not of convenience, and we’ll smile at each other in solidarity, knowing the other once ate an entire stick of butter, or has seven pounds of pre-packaged tuna somewhere in their room, or any of the other myriad marvelous things you learn from each other during spring break at Camp Vassar.

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