Residence Students, RAs Plan for Turkey in Dorms

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By Dargan Thompson, Staff Writer

As Thanksgiving approaches, many students get ready for traveling, stuffing themselves with turkey and sweet potatoes and maybe dealing with a little family drama. But some students cannot or choose not to go home for the holiday. They have to find different ways of celebrating.

Paul Riel, director of housing and residence life, said the dorms have more than 2,800 residents, all of whom are free to stay for Thanksgiving Break. The housing office doesn’t keep track of how many students do stay for Thanksgiving, but Riel doesn’t think it is a high number.

“It definitely gets pretty quiet,” he said.

Students are on their own as far as activities and dining for the break. Dining closes after lunch Nov. 23 and reopens Nov. 27 in the afternoon, said Debbie Clark, Chartwells’ director of dining services. Clark said Chartwells closes because of the low number of students left on campus.

Some students stick around because they have to work.

Lauren Dunayer, a freshman from Tampa, has to stay on campus because of her recently acquired job at Panera Bread.

Dunayer said her mom and sister are coming to spend Thanksgiving with her. Her dad and brother have to stay home for work, too. She said it will be sad to have only half of the family together, but Thanksgiving is not really a major holiday for her family. They usually go out to eat at Mimi’s Cafe, so they will probably do the same thing at the St. Johns Town Center.

A resident assistant from each residence area has to stay on campus over each break. As long as students are on campus, there has to be an RA on call, Riel said.

Jay Perez, an RA in Osprey Crossings, is on call for Thanksgiving Break. Perez said his family is coming to celebrate with him the weekend before.

“Thanksgiving is not really an optional holiday for us,” he said, “so they’re moving it for me.”

He said the RAs who are on call for the break are getting together for a meal on Thanksgiving.

Some don’t have the option of going home. Adenike Olunuga, a UNF international student from Nigeria, said it would cost more than $2,000 for a flight home. Olunuga’s family doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, so she said she plans on eating a lot of food with friends, going shopping on Black Friday and relaxing the rest of the weekend.

Naif Ghabban, a Saudi Arabian student in the English Learning Program, said Thanksgiving is a new experience for international students. Ghabban said many ELP students celebrate the holiday with their American friends.

Ghabban recently attended a Thanksgiving meal for international students that was put on by a Jacksonville church. He said he enjoyed trying the traditional American Thanksgiving fare.

“I liked everything but the pumpkin pie,” he said.

Email Dargan Thompson [email protected]