Students study out on the Commons.
Students study on the Campus Commons in October 2020. Last fall, TCU did not offer a Fall Break after midterms as in previous years. (Heesoo Yang/Staff Photographer)
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After 2020 left students struggling to cope without a fall break, TCU students said they will take advantage of this year’s break to mentally refresh and catch up on coursework. 

The Fall Break, a two-day recess from classes, traditionally takes place at the midpoint of the semester.

“Even though it’s not a whole week, it’s downtime and time to recharge, get like a mental break,” said first-year child development major Claire Hoelscher. “My high school never had a fall break, so I’m super thankful TCU does.”

Sadie Oakley, a senior movement science major, will be traveling to Minnesota over the break to visit her cousin. She said Fall Break is important for students’ mental health.

“I think that if we didn’t have Fall Break, there would be too much of a gap between the start of the school year and Thanksgiving Break and students would just get really worn out and tired,” she said. “It’s also an important time to just go home and see family or friends.”

Far from home

Oakley, a resident assistant in Milton Daniel Hall, said while most of her residents are traveling, many international students on campus do not have the luxury of visiting home over the 2021 Fall Break.

“It’s definitely important for us as RAs and Housing staff to make sure that we communicate with them during this time and that they still feel loved and like they have a family here at TCU,” she said.

Harmann Chhabra, a sophomore engineering major with a concentration in electrical engineering, said he’ll be spending his Fall Break with friends in Fort Worth instead of making the 40-hour roundtrip to his home in India. 

Chhabra said he is looking forward to visiting the state fair, attending events on campus with other international students and spending time with the families of friends who live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. 

“I’m glad that we’re getting this break,” said Chhabra. “Speaking as an international student, I think the break is very important for me because that’s the time when I have no excuses [for] not talking to my family.”

Reflecting on fall 2020

In the past, however, COVID-19 derailed Fall Break plans for everyone. Last fall, TCU compressed the semester to 15 weeks, eliminated breaks and added two Saturday class sessions to meet the requirements for the minimum number of days students had to be in school before Thanksgiving. 

The administration shifted the schedule to reduce nonessential travel over the holidays and minimize students’ time on campus during peak flu and cold season, according to a May 2020 email from Chancellor Victor Boschini. 

Oakley said the lack of breaks and additional Saturday classes wore on many students. 

“I definitely felt like the semester felt a lot longer than it actually was… It just felt like there was too much happening,” she said. “I would have rather had a fall break and gone an extra week of the semester than going home so early.”

According to the fall 2020 TCU Undergraduate Student Experience Survey, 78% of students reported that they had experienced a noticeable increase in anxiety since the beginning of classes and more than half reported a noticeable increase in depression.

Read more: Without a break, students feel more overwhelmed

In March 2021, TCU held a two-day Spring Refresh to allow students, staff and faculty to “take a moment of rest,” according to a Protect the Purple release by Boschini.

What’s next

Next month, TCU’s Thanksgiving Break will offer a full week off for students. The break is scheduled to take place from Saturday, Nov. 20 through Sunday, Nov. 28. 

Chhabra said, given the chance, he would take semester breaks one step further by giving students two or three days off every 90 days.

“Probably like three breaks over the semester,” he said. “Because we need it.”

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