What do professors do over spring break?

Courtesy of collegecandy.com

At some point in everyone’s lives, their parents have revealed that (spoiler alert) Santa Claus doesn’t exist and there is no fairy who sneaks into kids’ rooms at night to reward them for losing teeth.  The biggest shock of all: Teachers have their own lives separate from bestowing knowledge upon their students, making impossible exams, and offering office hours. They don’t all live at school when they leave for spring break either.

But what about spring break?  Spring break is known as the period of time that’s too short for going anywhere exotic, or at least far away, yet definitely too long to stay in Rochester.  It sneaks up in early March, miraculously appearing as a much-needed break from midterms and daily slush storms.  While students are frantically trying to figure out last-minute travel plans, fit in those final sessions in the gym (so they can show off their pasty Rochester pigments), professors are busy making their own plans, right?

Despite their academic reputation, professors also enjoy their week off from the usual routine of the school year.  Shockingly, they use the time for many of the same activities in which we partake.  Some of them catch up on their own work, some spend time with their families, and some are even lucky enough to travel.

“I don’t like to take trips over spring break,” Assistant Professor of Anthropology John Osburg said. “Typically, I don’t do anything, I just catch up on work.  So spring break is rarely fun for me.”

When asked if he at least enjoys the comforts of home while working, he added, “I often come into my office rather than work from home since it’s hard to work there with little kids.”

This year, Osburg will be taking on the daunting task of entertaining relatives while trying not to get sick, an unfortunate occurrence during this chilly and damp time of year.

Professor of Accounting Heidi Tribunella has had a similar experience, using the week to catch up on her work inside and outside of the classroom.  In fact, it is her busiest time of year.

So does this mean that we should feel guilty about our relaxing sleep, Netflix, and real food-filled break?  This should put any fears to rest: not all professors are stuck in their offices grading papers.

“I’m going to Sydney and Wollongong, Australia,” Professor Chris Niemiec said. “I was invited to give talks at the Sydney Business School and the University of Wollongong.”

And yes, he will be representing UR while enjoying the sun down under for as long as the break allows.

Have our professors always had the same spring break routine,  or have they merely calmed down from their own rambunctious college days?

“For my first spring break, when I was a freshman, I went to New Orleans for Mardi Gras” Niemiec recalled. “I had so much fun that I never did anything else for spring break because I got all my fun out of me in that first year. ”

For the rest of his college career, he made do with enjoying the peaceful comforts of home.  (Let this be a cautionary tale to all freshmen.)

Economics Professor Michael Rizzo claimed a different experience.

“In college, I used to read and work on papers — nothing too exciting,” he recalled.

Having been a professor for more than a decade, Rizzo now puts forth more effort to enjoy his breaks.

“I plan on spending the entire spring break upgrading my brewing equipment and brewing several new batches of homebrew. There will be lots of skating too if I can find ice time,” he said.

Osburg was fortunate enough to have the chance to leave the country during graduate school.

“One year, I went to China over spring break,” he said.  The trip had a similar outcome as Niemiec’s escapades in the Big Easy, but for different reasons.

“It was just a disaster,” he continued. “The trip to China was really rough, and then I was completely exhausted in China…and then completely exhausted when I came back.”

That said, traversing time zones for a few days worth of travel is probably not the best idea for such a relatively brief vacation; it may be better to save it for summer or winter breaks.

“It’s just too short to do any meaningful travel, so for me, it’s better to do stuff close by,” Osburg added.

For Osburg’s undergraduate college spring break experiences, he didn’t need to travel for a fun experience and a refreshing departure from his own college bubble.

“I went to college in New York [City], so I didn’t need to go anywhere,” he said. “I just had more time to explore the city, so I usually stayed.”

However, overall, Osburg remembered spring break as “often a time to stay and rest, try to recharge my body and mind.”  After reflecting for a moment, he remarked, “It was true as a student, and it’s true as a teacher.”

A custom of taking some time to relax after working diligently either as a professor or student is a much-needed vice for those at UR.

Not all professors’ college days were so easygoing and carefree, though.  Consistent with her current practices, Tribunella remembered working during her vacations as a student, using the time to catch up and get ahead in her coursework.  As long as studying and working count as watching television while simultaneously stalking classmates on Facebook with an open textbook lying nearby, this goal appears more attainable than originally thought.

Whether students’ spring break plans include lounging on the couch to catch up on some procrastination, lounging on a beach trying to make up for extreme sun deprivation, or just catching up on some work, they can rest assured that somewhere, their professors are probably doing the same.

Ganeles is a member of

the class of 2015.

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