Debbie Downer’s Spring Break

Cancun beachSpring break is coming up. That means hearing about Cancun and Barcelona while walking by students, seeing Airbnb and hotel tabs on 101 laptops, and seeing Snapchat countdowns every day.

Spring break is a college student’s dream – one that comes with a hefty price to make it a reality. As a student coming from a low-income background at a school like Tufts, where approximately 18% of the students come from families in the top 1%*, there are rarely ever spaces that are inclusive of people from different, usually less privileged socio-economic classes. You can see this in the amount of Canada Goose jackets on our campus. One coat can cost over $1000.

Money is a tricky thing to navigate in college. People refer to college as the great equalizer, but in many ways, I have been the most aware of my economic situation since coming to school. And spring break is a huge reminder of that.

When it comes to spring break, college students “just wanna have fun.” Bringing up costs and money can feel like you’re being the Debbie Downer of the group.

A Different Kind of Travel Anxiety

When friends from school start brainstorming all the possible spring break destinations, costs are an assumed factor. However, what people cannot see often is the stress and anxiety that students from lower socio-economic classes can feel during these conversations.

From experience, it’s hard to bring up affordability with friends. Money is an awkward thing to talk about at times. When it comes to spring break, college students “just wanna have fun.” Bringing up costs and money can feel like you’re being the Debbie Downer of the group. And no one wants to be labelled that way.

But for students who use their work-study job as their main source of income to pay for things ranging from laundry to food to books to tuition, spring break destinations involve more than just brainstorming. It means thinking extensively about how much money you can sacrifice to take a trip, sometimes hiding your concerns for the sake of the excitement of your friends.

What does this mean? We need to begin having conversations about affordability in college. We need to name the big elephant in the room, which looms larger for students from lower socio-economic classes.

Spring break is one example of that elephant. To all college students. who are struggling financially, I wish you all a happy spring break, wherever you are.

* making more than $630,000/year
Photo credit: Keith Lam

1 Response

  1. Celeste T

    this is so real. I always feel guilty about mentioning money so I try to avoid it, but that just causes tensions with the friends I’m with. it’s been hard for me to be honest about this so thank you for speaking what I’ve been feeling right now. I’m so wowed & proud to know you!!

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