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NU students plan for holiday travel without pandemic restrictions

For Bienen senior Matthew Yao, winter break marked his first opportunity as a freshman to travel back home to Hong Kong after moving to Evanston.

“College is such a big experience and finally (getting) to go home to something that you’re familiar with is always really refreshing,” Yao said.

Since spring 2020, COVID-19 pandemic restrictions have disrupted holiday travel for many international students like Yao. But this winter is shaping up to be different: as Fall Quarter officially ends on Dec. 10, many NU students are going home for the holidays without the looming backdrop of spiking cases or an emergent variant.

Weinberg and Bienen sophomore Dami Akanni, who is from Lagos, Nigeria, said the pandemic factored into his decision to stay at school during Winter Break his freshman year. Per Nigeria’s travel restrictions at the time, he would have had to quarantine for a week after landing home.

Spending a third of the three-week break in quarantine didn’t feel worth it, Akanni said.

Though that year marked his first time being away from home during the holidays, Akanni said he was fortunate enough to have his family visit the US for Christmas.

“Personally for me, my home is my family,” he said. “So since they were here, it was really nice.”

With quarantine regulations now lifted, Akanni is going back for winter break this year. He said he is looking forward to eating homemade dishes, enjoying the warm weather and seeing his friends.

For McCormick sophomore and Singapore native Sophia Tay, her country’s strict pandemic policies last year added several steps to an already long journey home. Over the 2021 holiday season, the Singapore government required all international travelers to show proof of a negative PCR test.

Tay said she and several other Singaporean students, unable to secure the proper tests through the University’s testing center, paid upwards of $100 each to get tested in Skokie. This year, Tay said she looks forward to a more relaxed travel process.

Weinberg junior Avrami Hacker said he worked hard to avoid contracting the virus before winter break of his freshman year.

“The biggest challenge was being extra cautious a couple of days before coming back,” Hacker said.

Even now, Hacker said he makes sure to sanitize his seat, tray and hands whenever he flies.

Some NU students have found new meaning in celebrating the holidays away from home. For Yao, home now means something beyond a physical place.

“It’s just more the people,” Yao said. “I’m looking forward to seeing family, eating Chinese food, the warmer weather and just relaxing and spending time with friends.”

SESP sophomore Malcolm Go, who is from Manila, Philippines, traveled to New York City this year to spend Thanksgiving with family friends.

Though he enjoyed getting a taste of home for Thanksgiving, Go said he is excited to visit his actual home over the holidays.

“I’m just looking forward to seeing my family again,” Go said. “I’m excited to meet my brother again because he just started college, so he is a freshman studying abroad as well, so I’m excited to see how different he is.”

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Twitter: @heyyitsemoly

E-mail: [email protected]

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