University of Iowa students escape campus for unofficial spring breaks

Hybrid learning has allowed students at the UI to travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.


University of Iowa students vacationed on Miami Beach in Florida on March 7 while keeping up with remote online classes. (Contributed)

Sabine Martin, News Reporter

The University of Iowa canceled spring break on Sept. 14 to reduce long distance travel and help limit the spread of COVID-19, but that hasn’t stopped some UI students from taking a break or even flying across the country.

In place of spring break, normally a week-long vacation, the UI has scheduled two day-long instructional breaks for students on March 2 and April 14.

First-year pre-dentistry student Marina Meyer traveled to Miami, Florida with two of her friends in early March for a spring vacation. She said she has not officially quarantined since her arrival back in Iowa, but she lives in a single dorm room and is checking her COVID-19 symptoms daily.

Meyer and her friends flew from Chicago and wore two masks or an N95 mask in the airport and on the plane, she said. The group had already contracted COVID-19 once during the school year.

“It was a selfish trip, and we definitely took a risk of bringing [COVID-19] and spreading it,” Meyer said. “I would say we did our best to keep ourselves safe and others as well like wearing masks everywhere. Going there when we did, it was not as much of a hot spot than what it is right now.”

On March 20, the city of Miami issued a state of emergency because of significant concerns relating to larger than expected spring break crowds, a city of Miami press release said. The state of emergency also included an 8 p.m. through 6 a.m. curfew.

Jake Jacobsen, a media liaison at Student Travel Services, a travel agency that represents over 1,000 campuses across the U.S., said this year clients aren’t wanting to travel during the traditional spring break dates.

“We’ve got a lot of groups that are traveling in May when school gets out, so it’s a little bit more sporadic, but we certainly have a lot more inquiries and people looking to get away in the last couple of weeks,” Jacobsen said.

Meyer said she saw students from other universities doing their homework outside in the sun. She said the only change that she had in her academic schedule was one in-person class, which she attended over Zoom for the week, Meyer said.

“Since all of my classes were online it was not hard to do at all. We just had to switch our classes by an hour so we showed up on time,” Meyer said. “We wrote it out in our planners to change the time, so we didn’t have to convert to Miami time in the morning.”

This year, Jacobsen said Student Travel Services are seeing a lot of college students from some of the bigger schools in the Midwest. Some large groups that they have worked with this year are from universities in Missouri and Indiana, he said.

“Some schools are still seeing some big groups traveling and the hotels are selling out. They’re actually sold out next week in Cabo,” Jacobsen said. “Even through COVID people are looking to get away and looking to travel.”

First-year student Emma Cryer is going camping in the Iowa wilderness next weekend with a group of friends. She said she chose to take a road trip somewhere because it is cheaper.

“I’m not super nervous about COVID at this point, but I probably won’t fly for a while,” Cryer said.  “I feel like if you can travel as long as you’re not going to go to a big, populated area.”

Cryer, a trumpet performance major, said she also does not have enough time to take a vacation because she has weekly in-person ensembles and lessons.

To get work done during the week, Meyer said she and her friends held each other accountable and did not do non-school activities until their classes were finished for the day. Meyer said she felt more motivated to do her schoolwork with the good weather in Miami.

“Mentally, the trip was a great escape,” Meyer said. “We would grab something to eat and do our homework in the sun.”

Meyer said she and her friends would have gone on vacation regardless of the UI’s plans to cancel spring break, but she understands why the university chose to cancel break.

“It is just great to have a change,” Meyer said. “Especially in times when we don’t get to see a lot of people or be in the sun.”