Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Fewer Students Traveling for Spring Break

by Ellen Schnier

Ohio University students, eager to celebrate the rare 70-degree March day, sported flip-flops, Bermuda shorts and sunglasses yesterday and hoped the nice weather would stick around.

If it doesn't, though, students must only suffer through the rest of this week and their finals before heading to the beach in sunny Puerta Vallarta or some other tropical destination. Such is the usual trend come mid-March. Often associated with binge drinking, Girls Gone Wild, MTV and second degree sunburns, spring break has become a right of passage for college students seeking a respite from their hard work. With a struggling economy, however, not as many students can make that trip.

“One thing is for sure. When the economy goes down, spring travel will definitely be affected,” Consumer Science Professor Fang Meng says. She thinks spring break travel will go down this year and more students will stay at home. Travel and tourism are not necessities, she says, and are the first to get cut from a budget in a recession. Though students work hard to pay for tuition and sustenance, Meng suggests spring break is not one of those necessities.

Assistant Professor Fang Meng says that struggling travel businesses are reaching out to students.

Students who have the funds to head to the beach are encouraged to use extra precaution this year. Catherine Marshall, the Director of Education Abroad, suggests students register their trip, including their flight and hotel itinerary and passport number with the State Department. “With that, you can let the State Department know where you’re going to be, not because they’re being Big Brother but because if something happens to you, they can’t be of any help if they don’t know where you are.”

She says students traveling to foreign countries, especially Mexico, let their guard down and can get into trouble. Even if you are staying in a secluded resort, students must be careful. It’s important to research the area to which you’ll travel, she says, including legal expectations about behavior, drinking age and health and safety issues. Do not walk alone at night or accept drinks from strangers. “If a student is going to a border area, they really need to be aware of their surroundings. They need to be up on the news.”

Director of Education Abroad Catherine Marshall gives tips for traveling.

OU Senior Courtney Tintor is heading to Puerta Vallarta, Mexico, with a group of friends for spring break. “I financed it from my savings. I’ve put extra money from every paycheck I’ve had into savings, since I have been working, so I just pulled it out of there.” Even though students are having money troubles and opting out of a spring break trip, she says this is her first year traveling, so she made the sacrifice.

Tintor says she will be very careful and check the region-specific information on the State Department web site before she leaves. Her parents have been doing a lot of research on the area after the Mexican drug cartel violence escalated in recent months and have been sending her news articles to keep her informed before she travels.

Senior Courtney Tintor talks about how her parents reacted to her trip to Mexico.

Whether students will travel abroad or stay closer to home next week, a break from classes will be warmly welcomed.

No comments: