Thanksgiving break: A stressful time for boarding students

Angie Cotton, Managing Editor of Production

Boarding students Tan Jin ‘22, Rosie Kim ‘22, Ryo Nambara ‘22, and Shunta Nambara ‘25 enjoy dinner at Shabu-You over Thanksgiving break. (Photo by Ryo Nambara ‘22)

    Every year during the last full week of November, Lake Forest Academy becomes deserted as students and many faculty leave campus for Thanksgiving break. This also marks the closing of dorms and other essential services needed to live on campus temporarily, forcing boarding students to find other places to stay during these few days.

    Thanksgiving week becomes a tense time for boarders, as many international students are not able to fly home and back over the span of such a short time, and even if they were able to, the cost of it is usually not worth the little amount of time they would get to spend with their friends and family back home.  

    To find a solution for this, many boarders are compelled to find either local contacts they can stay with, or stay at a nearby hotel. Anna Freyman ‘22 is one of many boarders who chooses the first option, as she usually stays with her “cousins who live in Chicago or with family’s friends who live in Vernon Hills, because flying back to my country takes too long.”

    However, those who don’t have relatives nearby that can take them in are obligated to stay at a local hotel. With LFA being composed of a large population of minors, this becomes tricky because many hotels have age restrictions for residing without an adult.

    Another concern arises when minors have to stay at a hotel, usually by themselves and for the first time. When asked about this, Jonathan Freeman, Director of Residential Life, stated that, “We require the parent to sign off on that, when school’s closed and our students are off campus, we’re no longer legally responsible for them.” This means that although students are required to still follow LFA’s code of conduct while they’re off-campus, anything that may happen to them is entirely under their parent or guardian’s responsibility.

    Anna Freyman believes that for “students who are minors and cannot book a hotel room and students with no [nearby] relatives, [they would benefit and] be happy to be able to stay on campus.” Although many other students might agree with this statement, it’s unfortunately not possible in a realistic world. 

    Jonathan Freeman said, “As a boarding community, we have an obligation to our faculty to respect their well-earned right to vacations when the school has announced those vacations well ahead of time.” This means that it is not to the school’s convenience to have their faculty stay during a vacation week in order to supervise students that would stay in the dorms.

    When discussing  giving other time off to this faculty, especially those who don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, another issue arose. Even if there were faculty to supervise students, Freeman agreed that, “it’s not necessarily beneficial for the school to just tell students you can stay here, but then not offer them any food service or any programming.” 

    Spending 96 hours on campus without the reliability of our Sodexo staff that we have year-round and without any van runs, would not be an enjoyable vacation period for any boarder. Anna Freyman is in accordance with this, as she mentioned that even if this option were available, “I’d follow my current thanksgiving plan rather than staying on campus without van runs and Student Union food because connecting with my family is way more interesting than living on campus with nothing to do.”

    Another issue that arises during this vacationing week for those who do choose to travel farther out is van transportation. All boarders that are travelling somewhere by plane are provided with a van ride from LFA to the airport, but this isn’t the case upon their return. They find themselves having to usually take a $40 taxi back to campus instead.

    This is also an issue during other extended school holidays, including winter and spring break, which becomes rather pricey over time for these boarding students. When asked about this, Jonathan Freeman explained how although LFA is able to provide transportation as they have flight information and schedules that they can work with, “on the return, the delays, the time it takes to get through customs, it’s really hard for us to build a schedule.” 

    Another problem was that in a place that’s so crowded like O’Hare International Airport, it’s an “enormous undertaking” to show up with a Caxy van and wait there for students. Along with that, it’d be rather tricky to find faculty willing to drive those Caxy vans on a Sunday night when they could still be enjoying their vacation time instead.
    Although Jonathan Freeman indicated that making some changes to how these pieces of Thanksgiving break function is something that could potentially be reconsidered in the future, LFA’s boarding students will simply have to accept the way these things continue to be for the time being.