Winter term mental health days let students recharge

A look into how six students spent their days off


Emma Coleman

Many students spent the days off hiking or enjoying time outdoors.

Annalisa Waddick

Tuesday and Wednesday, March 2 and 3, Washington and Lee University students and faculty got their first break in more than seven weeks. Nicknamed the ‘Dudley Days’ in honor of President Dudley, people spent their precious 48 hours of freedom engaged in a variety of activities from studying to hiking.

Elizabeth Oliver, Interim Provost and Lew- is Whitaker Adams Professor of Accounting, explained that the University’s COVID Committee recommended the calendar change, which then had to be approved by the faculty.

“The faculty supported the calendar with those days included,” Oliver said. “There was general concern that everyone needed a break during the term if we could find a way to safely have one.”

Alice Chen at the top of Big House Mountain during the two-day break. Photo courtesy of Alice Chen, 23′.

Alice Chen, ‘23, loves spending time outdoors and was excited that the weather over the break was warm and sunny.

“I went on a hike with two of my friends,” Chen said. “We did Big House Mountain, and the weather was super nice and no one else was there. It was great!”

Joanne Ko, ‘23, also took advantage of the nice weather by spending some time on the Colonnade.

“On Tuesday I went to the InterVarsity painting event that they had, and I painted on the Colonnade with some friends,” Ko said. “Then that night my friends and I watched a movie – High School Musical 2 – and got dinner together.”

Like Chen and Ko, many students spent their break days with friends. At a time when so many students are struggling with feelings of isolation and separation due to COVID, these days spent with friends become all the more important.

Other students elected to spend their break days with family. Although travel outside of Lexington is “strongly discouraged” according to the school’s weekly COVID-19 up- dates, some students felt that a trip home was the best choice for them.

One such student is Davis Sharrett, ‘24, who travelled back home in hopes of spending time with his newly vaccinated grandparents.

“I went back home to see my family in Charlotte,” Sharrett explained. “Both my grandparents just got vaccinated so I was going to go see them, but they both ended up being out of town so… I was just sleeping in my own bed, playing some golf – I just need- ed some warm weather.”

Charlie Thigpen, ‘24, had a similar break as he too decided to travel home.

“I went home to see my family. We just got a new puppy, and so I got to see him,” Thigpen said. “My grandparents also just got vaccinated so I got to get lunch with them which was fun because I haven’t seen them in awhile.”

Not everyone lives a drive away from Lexington however, and for some students, going home was not an option. This was the case for Eleni Filley, ‘22, who lives outside Chicago and spent her break here in Lexington.

“I had track practice, and I tried to get as much work done as possible – although not as much as I would have liked,” Filley said. “And I’m one of the track captains, and so the other track captain and I got dinner with a bunch of the first-year track women.”

Filley wasn’t the only student who spent part of her break doing homework. In fact, it seems as though nearly every student on campus put in at least a few hours towards catching up on the work that had built up over the previous seven weeks.

And, while some professors chose to cancel assignments due over break, others did not, leaving students with a heavy workload.

This meant that the break was only a brief respite from academic stress for many students.

Alice Chen explained that although she felt great while hiking, afterwards she felt stressed because she had a lab and other assignments due Friday that she still had to complete.

“Not having class was really nice,” Filley said. “I just think that the way we’re living right now – and I don’t want to speak for anyone else but [myself] – but for me, two days is really nice but it isn’t necessarily a remedy for feeling discouraged or lonely or stressed or anxious.”

Nevertheless, two ‘Dudley Days’ were better than none, and students such as Merritt McCaleb, ‘24, were grateful for any opportunity to recharge.

“I feel a lot better. I think everyone was kind of drained honestly – especially because we had midterms last week.” McCaleb said. “So I think regardless of if people did anything or not, it was a really, really good break that people needed to have.”