After three months in the Orange Bubble, constantly rushing from one activity to the next, it can be strange to go back to your hometown for three weeks. Yet this is exactly what many of us are expected to do when the University stops feeding us every December. While the brevity of Thanksgiving and the numerous Princeton-sponsored activities during fall break prevent these breaks from becoming jarring departures from the Princeton routine, the extended duration of winter break forces students to temporarily abandon the comfortable rhythms of campus life. There is no reason to worry, though: This convenient guide will help you navigate the difficulties of your return home.
One of the most important things to keep in mind over your three-week expulsion from the University is the problem of food. If you find yourself waving your prox in vain at the face of a food service professional at your favorite local restaurant, don’t be alarmed: This is a normal part of the winter break transition.
However, it is important to remember that outside of the University, people often expect you to pay for food, and this food is often finite in quantity. Because of this, you should remember to bring some form of legally recognized remuneration whenever you find yourself eating out over break. What is lost in quantity and ease of access is made up for by the improved quality of food, and you should savor the chance to enjoy restaurant food for a few weeks.
For those times when you are eating at home over the break, it’s important to clearly and repeatedly show your gratitude for your parents’ cooking, but not to overdo it. There is a fine line that must be respected when describing food at Princeton in relation to food at your house. If you describe the dining hall food in too positive terms, or if you fail to show appropriate appreciation of your home-cooked meals, you will come off as ungrateful and entitled.
On the contrary, though, if in your quest to avoid accusations of impoliteness you go too far in praising the savory flavors of home, you run the risk of your parents worrying about the food you are getting at Princeton with renewed fervor. To avoid constant calls to monitor your caloric intake or possibly angry tirades at the high cost of an unsatisfactory meal plan, you must act thankful for your parent’s food, but not too thankful. This process could take some adjustment on the fly to find the right level of enthusiasm.
Having resolved questions about eating during your break, you may at this point be wondering about drinking away from Princeton. While the enlightened Princetonian alcohol policy of “Just don’t drink so much that you have to be PMC’ed” may have pushed minor legal details like the minimum drinking age out of your mind, you should remember over your break that most of the rest of the world is not so lenient.
To those of you tempted to go to the same parties you did in high school, I invite you to consider Matthew McConaughey’s character in “Dazed and Confused.” Don’t be Matthew McConaughey’s character in “Dazed and Confused.” Instead of engaging in illicit and distasteful nighttime activities over break, you should take advantage of the time to partake in more wholesome nocturnal pursuits, like sleeping.
Although it may seem boring, sleeping in your own bed (assuming your bedroom hasn’t been turned into a yoga studio or entertainment center) is one of the most worthwhile things you will be able to do over the break. You may think you’ve gotten used to the rock-hard, “extra-long” accommodations in your dorm room, but your time at home will remind you what it is like to sleep on a real mattress. Even if the bed in your bedroom at home isn’t remarkably comfortable, you can rest in it free from worries that you’ll have to endure your roommate’s daily war of attrition with the snooze function on his alarm clock.
Unless you can lapse into week-long periods of hibernation (in which case you should see a neurologist), you won’t be able to spend your whole winter break sleeping. The first few days of your homecoming will be pretty easy, as you can occupy yourself with the obligatory visits to all of the people you left behind when you went to school. While it is tempting to make a whirlwind tour of all the people you have occasion to visit, it’s best to spread these visits out over at least the first week. After these, you can visit your old friends from high school. If they have not been radically altered by their college experiences, you can spend a good deal of your time with them over winter break. If, however, they are going through an existentialist phase (or have become otherwise unpleasant), you can admire their new turtleneck (or other strange new accessory) before moving on to other pursuits.
Having exhausted the list of things you can do outside of your home, you can always spend time at home and catch up on such laudable activities as watching television or wasting time on the Internet. This may seem like a waste of your break, but being at home actually offers unique opportunities in these areas. After weeks of having your every action on the Internet monitored by Princeton, you are free to download all of the illegal files you’ve been too afraid to obtain over the semester ( ... not that you should).
Better yet, there isn’t always a chance to watch television during the semester, and over your winter break you can catch up on all of the shows that you missed. If this season’s backlog of “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” doesn’t intrigue you, you can always use your winter break to do some reading for pleasure. You can even go to your local library and savor the peace of mind that comes from browsing a library without the constant fear of being lost forever in its subterranean passageways.
It won’t be easy to be thrown out of the vibrant, fast-paced Princeton experience for three weeks. But if you stick to the tips in this guide, you may even come to enjoy these weeks as a chance to remember what life was like before Princeton, or what it would still be like if you had deferred enrollment to pursue stardom with your band.
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