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Winter Break 2020: Hitting the slopes, hitting the books and hitting the hay

With the risk of spreading COVID-19 in Oxford, Miami University officials decided to end the fall semester a few weeks earlier than usual, leaving students with almost two full months of break at their disposal.

Traveling is still a hazard when it comes to the pandemic, but for junior finance major Elise Gray, that was a risk she was willing to take. Gray is from Cleveland, but her older sister has relocated to Denver. After spending an extended amount of time separated because of COVID-19, Gray decided to spend a week in Colorado with her sister. 

The plan was a heavily-curated one. Gray had already recovered from coronavirus while at Miami, so she was less concerned about contracting it again. Her parents, however, did not want to be in contact with Gray after her trip. 

Gray planned to leave her home in Cleveland and drive back to Oxford. From there she would take a plane from Cincinnati to Denver. At the end of the trip, she would return to Cincinnati and go straight back to school. 

“It was easier this way, and the flights were way cheaper from Cincinnati,” Gray said.

This was Gray’s first time on an airplane since the beginning of the pandemic, but she wasn’t worried. She did find it weird that the Cincinnati airport was dead, and there were no lines. The Denver airport was busy, but Gray still felt safe.

“Everyone kept their distance for the most part, and the staff really did their part at keeping the airport clean,” Gray said.

There was one moment of her trip on the ski slopes where Gray felt like she might be near someone with. On one of the days they went skiing, there was an issue with the lift. The line began growing, and at one point, it made her really think about the repercussions. 

“There is no way there were all of those people in line and no one had it,” Gray said.

While Gray spent her week in Colorado, back in Oxford things were ramping up for ESP 461 students. 

Usually held in San Francisco during J-term, the entrepreneurship capstone is a client consulting project, and the only way to take the class is to be on “the list.” Senior interactive media studies and entrepreneurship major Gianmarco Petrelli has worked his way onto the list, and his hard work paid off when his team won the capstone project this J-term. 

Petrelli joined the entrepreneurship program because of its rigorous reputation. He started as a student in ESP 101 and now has been through the creative challenge of ESP 252. He has even had the opportunity to work as a teaching assistant (TA) for program director Jim Friedman. 

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“You hear a lot of different opinions about Dr. Friedman, but he truly makes you grow as a person and student,” Petrelli said. 

Petrelli spent his January in the Farmer School of Business. Every day for 13 hours, his team worked to impress the client. In the end, Petrelli’s team gave the winning pitch.

Senior marketing major Serena Lanum’s brain was also hard at work during break. But the remedy for this form of work involved heavy amounts of sleep and food. 

“I had a craniectomy, which basically means they took a piece of my skull out,” Lanum said.

Lanum has suffered from spinal pain throughout her entire life as a result from built-up pressure in her skull. After years of suffering, Lanum was supposed to get a correctional surgery this past summer, but the pandemic put it on pause. 

“They said the hospital was unsafe for such an invasive surgery at the time,” Lanum said.

Lanum went in for surgery a week before Christmas, and doctors told her it would be a lengthy recovery process. Lanum quickly found that recovery meant sleeping, but time passed even more slowly when she was awake because she was not allowed any visitors.

“I was allowed one visitor on the day of the surgery, but no one else until I went home,” Lanum said.

After six days Lanum finally did go home, and her days consisted of sleeping and eating, which is an unfamiliar form of forced relaxation for her. 

“I am a workaholic, so it was hard to feel like I could not work on anything,” Lanum said.

Lanum is still on the road to recovery, but she is happy to be returning to campus for the spring.

“I’m glad to be back in Oxford to finish out my senior year,” Lanum said.