Behind the Headlines: Spartans Will Chill

January 14, 2016

For most kids who grew up in Michigan, “winter break” is synonymous with playing in the snow, celebrating holidays and reconnecting with family. These traditions may not have changed for some Spartans, but for others “winter break” may have taken on a new meaning.

As I’m sure is the case for many of us, the greatly anticipated winter break provided me with a sabbatical from the competitive environment on campus and an opportunity to catch up on things that I can’t find time for while colliding with time crunches and deadlines during the school year. One of those activities for me is reading.

As many fellow English majors may understand, there is a clear distinction between reading for pleasure and reading assigned texts for a course grade. Over break, it’s critical for me to have a chance to read books for fun and remember why I chose to study literature and write 10-page essays on the theory behind them in the first place. A few books I split open over break were Stephen King’s latest, The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes, and Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood.

In addition to reading over break, I was grateful to have a chance to really hone in on my plans for post-graduation. I opted out of playing in the snow (which was scarce during break anyway), and spent a lot of time dreaming up the possible roads ahead, at the house where I was raised in Metamora, Mich. I took the time to prepare graduate school applications and spit-balled job leads with my ever-wise father, who has always served as both my oracle and a walking encyclopedia.

Here, my three bothers and I pose with Santa Claus at Mutch's Hidden Pines in Lapeer, Mich. Santa is sporting a Michigan State hat. Go green!

Here, my three bothers and I pose with Santa Claus at Mutch's Hidden Pines in Lapeer, Mich. Santa is sporting a Michigan State hat. Go green!

It was a much needed holiday away from Michigan State – topped off with a traditional trip upstate to Traverse City to ring in the new year with my immediate family and closest friends.

It turns out I’m not the only Spartan who utilized break to get ahead in the career search.

 Junior advertising major Sophie Thibault set out a goal over break to perfect her resume and begin applying for summer internships at her home in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.

 “I got this done by turning off all things that could connect to the internet, sat down, and just gave myself an hour to get it done,” Thibault said. She noted that she has high expectations for herself this upcoming semester and is looking forward to getting back into the swing of things on campus after a long, relaxing break.

Besides getting poised for the job market, Thibault said her favorite part of break was spending time with her sister’s dog, Emmett, and babysitting for family friends.

 Kyle Pachla, a senior chemical engineering major, enjoyed having the opportunity to catch up with his old friends in Shelby Township, Mich. Pachla said that he was thrilled to participate in “fowling” for the first time – a mixture of football and bowling – in Hamtramck, Mich. Pachla claimed that “the fowling warehouse is a great place to spend a night out with friends. A new sport with good music and a great atmosphere.”

Pachla didn’t remain in Southeast Michigan for the entirety of break, however. Like  many Michigan State students, he traveled south to Dallas, Texas, to watch the Michigan State Spartans challenge the Alabama Crimson Tide for a spot in the National College Football Championship game. Pachla said his first visit to Texas was the highlight of his holiday vacation.

 Despite our heartbreaking loss in the Cotton Bowl, many students echoed the feeling that traveling to Dallas enhanced their winter break. Kathryn Maass ’16 and Claire McCarthy ’16 also traveled to Dallas and were moved by the experience.

 “I am always amazed with the commitment and support the MSU community has and getting to hear alumni stories and words of wisdom,” said Maass, a James Madison student from Bloomfield Hills. “It was so beneficial, especially being a senior about to graduate and embark on a new journey.” 

McCarthy and Maass continued their travels after Dallas by following the MSU Ski Club to Keystone, Colo., for a week of skiing and snowboarding.

McCarthy enjoys the scenic view in Keystone, Colo.

McCarthy enjoys the scenic view in Keystone, Colo.

McCarthy, a Walled Lake native, ventured to Colorado with the Ski Club last winter break as well, and said she looked forward to really raising the bar for herself this year.

“I really pushed myself to try harder runs and experience riding down a bowl for the first time.”

 Maass and McCarthy said they hope to forge a new tradition of returning to Colorado annually with Spartan alumni and friends after graduation, but they weren’t the only ones to pioneer new traditions for themselves.

Their fellow MSU senior, newlywed Miriam Keith Kennedy, celebrated her first holiday season with her new husband at Fort Wainwright, Ala. According to Kennedy, she set a goal to really explore the state over break.

Kennedy poses for a picture on her road trip through Alaska.

Kennedy poses for a picture on her road trip through Alaska.

“We spent four  days road tripping from Fairbanks down to Anchorage and then from Anchorage down to Girdwood,” Kennedy explained. “I wish I could stay in Alaska because I’ve really fallen in love with this state.”

Now that I'm back at my new “home” in East Lansing,  I can see that winter break was a reviving and fruitful experience. I’m happy to be back on Michigan State’s now snow-dusted campus. If being away did only one thing, it has recharged my Spartan spirit and has me looking forward to savoring every moment as I close out my final semester here at the university. 

Theresa Leo is a senior English major in the College of Arts and Letters who is interning as a writer in the Student Affairs and Services Communications Office. The opinions expressed in Behind the Headlines do not necessarily represent those of the Division of Student Affairs or Michigan State University.

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