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Miami’s winter break is too long: It doesn’t need to be

<p>Winter break is great for some and far too long for others.</p>

Winter break is great for some and far too long for others.

“When do you head back to school?”

“Not until January 29th.”

“Dang, that’s long!”

I have had some form of this conversation with my friends and family more times than I count this winter break. It always ends in surprise or confusion about the length of my stay at home. Each time it happens, I am reminded how absurdly long Miami University’s winter break is. 

My friends who attend the University of Cincinnati, Ohio State University, Ohio University and out-of-state schools have been back in classes for more than three weeks by now. Meanwhile, Miami students will have only finished their first week of the spring semester. 

Our winter break is too long, and the stark difference between Miami and other universities begs the question: why do we do winter break so differently?

The obvious first answer is that we have a winter term for classes. Miami’s "J-Term" ran from Jan. 2-26 this year. That’s a pretty short time to cover an entire semester’s worth of material, if you ask me. The cost also ends up being different and hard to understand.

You have to apply separately for winterterm financial aid. Also, the individual cost per credit hour is more than if you take more than 12 credit hours during the semester.

Our winter break ends up being about six weeks long, depending on when students get done with finals. This is an awkward time frame. While the first two weeks may be taken up with holiday festivities, I’ve always felt that the remaining four weeks are hard to fill. It’s too short to get a job unless you’re lucky enough to be returning somewhere that will work around your weird schedule. 

I have found odd ways to make money and stay busy, but it feels like I have to make a huge effort not to drown in boredom.

On top of that, hometown friends who go to any other school aren’t around for half of our break. This only exacerbates the feeling of boredom. I fortunately have a few hometown friends who also go to Miami, but I know most students are not in this situation. 

Moreover, our extended winter break does not just impact students this time of year, it messes with our summer break. As a result of going back to school two to three weeks longer in the winter, we must also stay in school two to three weeks longer at the end of the semester.

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Scrolling social media and seeing friends on their summer break while we have to study for finals is not a fun experience. Getting on my phone for a study break, seeing half of my Instagram feed of people at the beach, and then having to go back to studying organic chemistry is not fun. 

A four-week-long winter break following the same schedule as other Ohio universities would be infinitely better for our student body. The six-week-long winter term isn’t used enough by Miami students to justify its continued presence, and I don’t see how that will change anytime soon. I would rather have those extra two weeks during summer break to work, travel and spend time with friends and family.

While I understand that some students need to take classes outside of the normal two-semester schedule or want to study abroad for less than a whole semester, the summer term can be easily used for both of these. It simply does not seem that the winter term benefits enough students to justify the detriments it causes the majority of us.

I realize that it is not the end of the world to have this longer break. I appreciate any sort of break from the insanity of college life, but it can and should be done better. Too much of a break can be bad, and Miami should seriously consider eliminating the winter term and shortening winter break.

Sam Norton is a third-year honors student majoring in biology with an environmental science co-major and journalism minor. He has been writing for The Student since his first year, won a regional SPJ award for his opinion columns, and is currently the GreenHawks and Assistant Opinion Editor.