Letting Off Steam before Finals
Mention Spring Break to most parents and immediate visions of lawless partying comes to mind. I get it. I grew up in Fort Lauderdale, the original Spring Break destination. As a high school student, my friends and I would drive up and down “The Strip” watching all of the college kids dancing, sunbathing and letting loose. When we were finally in college, we spent our days at the beach and our nights on The Strip.
UF Spring Break this year is February 29th through March 8th. While we parents might be looking forward to some time with our students, they may — well, probably do — have other plans. I just thought I would give you that heads up; it’s not uncommon for students to go away with their friends for Spring Break. For those of you who have students living (and wanting to remain) on-campus, it’s also good to know that dorms stay open during Spring Break. Gainesville is still Florida, after all; there is no snowy winter from which to make the great escape. Parking is lifted for certain lots. Click here to see which areas have lifted restrictions.
Mention Spring Break to other parents and you are bound to get arguments from both sides: parents who would not allow their kids to go off to a spring break destination in the States (think Panama City, Key West, Daytona Beach, South Padre Island) let alone a foreign country (Bahamas, Bimini, Dominican Republic, a cruise to almost any warm-weather climate) versus parents who remember (or sort of hazily remember) their Spring Breaks and want their kids to have the freedom to enjoy the same experience. Last November, my daughter brought up going to Bimini on Spring Break. So, yeah, that conversation. Some students will want to sign up with a Spring Break company being used by the group they want to travel with, and that conversation starts well in advance of spring.
Another example of group travel includes Gators for Christ, who schedule Spring Break trips among their many activities. And for those of you with students looking in that alternative realm, UF has trips that students can sign up to travel and volunteer. UF has a program called Florida Alternative Breaks (FAB). These trips place their emphasis on education, service, and reflection in a location outside of Gainesville. You can register and learn more here.
Because I grew up in a Spring Break destination and saw the way the college kids behaved (or did not behave), it made me somewhat nervous to see my daughter heading off. But, a part of me also recognized that she was a legal adult and did not necessarily need my permission. Her going away came with non-negotiable agreements between us and is the basis for my advice to parents below. Our non-negotiables include the same guidance I gave her when she left for college.
Spring Break Rules
- Never, ever go off with anyone other than friends and never, ever let a friend go off with someone they do not know. I gave that same advice to her sister, even going so far as to say “I don’t care if it is Joe Jonas (fill in your student’s fan-girl interest here); you DO NOT go off with anyone. I had to trust that she understood the seriousness of my words.
- Never accept a drink from anyone. Again, this is a safety tip she has heard even as she goes out in our hometown.
- Check-in with a text daily. I didn’t need to speak to her on the phone; I just wanted a text saying, “I am okay.”
- Be aware of any and all applicable laws (open container, alcohol restrictions on beaches, etc).
Those are my hard fast rules for when she leaves. Now for you parents who have a student going off with friends for Spring Break:
- If they will be traveling out of the country, make sure you add an international phone plan to their number. WhatsApp works well but requires access to wi-fi so that may not be enough.
- If they have a credit card, make sure you let the credit card company know they will be out of the country so they are able to use the card.
- Make sure you have their friends’ phone numbers just in case you need to reach them (or do not hear from your student). Maybe the phone got dropped in the pool or ocean or they lost it on the beach — it happens. Having other contact numbers will give you a back-up option.
- In that same vein, make sure you have phone numbers for their friends’ parents as well — just in case you need to get in touch with them.
- Activate the Find My Friends app so that if you need the peace of mind of knowing where your student is located, you will be able to find them. This is a personal non-negotiable for my daughter and me.
- Make sure YOUR passport is valid. If an emergency arises, you will need a valid passport to travel out of the country.
Let’s face it, Spring Break is sort of a rite of passage. In just a few short years, they will (hopefully) be out in the real world, working and taking vacations that will not only take them all over but give them a whole new outlook on taking a break.
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