After most students had packed their bags and gone home for winter break, voices continued to echo through the cold corridors of Sproul Hall, as a select group of students chose to spend their winter break on the Hill.
Normally, students are expected to move out of the dorms by the end of finals week, but since last year the Office of Residential Life has offered students the option to make the Hill their home over break.
The Winter Break on the Hill program was created to accommodate a number of international students who cannot travel to their home countries for winter break, said Barbara Wilson, the associate director of room operations for UCLA Housing and Hospitality Services.
About 175 students, including international students and student athletes, signed up for the Winter Break on the Hill program this year, Wilson said.
For a $500 fee, students who normally live in residential halls were relocated to the lounges of Sproul Hall while those in residential suites stayed in their regular rooms. Students in residential halls were brought together in Sproul Hall in order to improve security for students who would need to leave their room to go to the bathroom, said Alfred Nam, the director of room operations at UCLA Housing and Hospitality Services. Students were supervised by resident assistants and resident
directors throughout the break.
For Zhongyue Zhang, a first-year neuroscience student from China, the opportunity to stay on campus over break was a chance to save money on a flight which can cost
thousands of dollars.
“It is $500,” Zhang said. “In contrast to the plane tickets (to China) it is much cheaper.”
Zhang spent her winter break in the fourth floor lounge at Sproul Hall, where the typical lounge furniture was removed and replaced with beds and closets. Each lounge could accommodate six students, Wilson said.
Despite the accommodations, Zhang found her stay in the lounge charmless.
“There’s not much privacy,” said Zhang, who shared a lounge with five other girls. She added that because she was not very familiar with the Westwood area, she had trouble
finding things to do.
“The (dining halls) are all closed and as an international student it’s kind of hard to solve all the dinners,” Zhang said.
She mostly ate canned food or frozen meals which she stored in one of the two refrigerators provided in the lounge.
Although Zhang celebrates Christmas, she said it did not feel like Christmas in her lounge or on campus. Zhang said she and her roommates did not really celebrate the holiday.
Zhang said sometimes she felt homesick when she saw her friends posting pictures of her favorite foods or visiting friends she had not seen in a long time. Sometimes she just wanted to go home, she said.
Her biggest complaint, however, was the cold weather. Sproul Hall has no heating.
“The two warmest places in Sproul Hall – the first one is the elevator and the second is the bathroom,” Zhang said. She added that whenever she felt particularly cold she would sometimes go to the bathroom to warm up.
Nam said Sproul Hall is equipped with a heater that heats the entire building. However, because there were never any complaints throughout the break, Housing did not raise the temperature in the building.
The experience was not the same for all students.
International student Daniel Li, a first-year mathematics/economics student from China, also spent his winter break at UCLA. Because he lives in a residential plaza in De Neve Fir, he was allowed to stay in his own room.
Li said he enjoyed having his floor to himself because it allowed him to work out in his own lounge. He added that he found it inconvenient having to go to Westwood multiple times a
day for meals, though.
“If (Housing) opened a dining hall that would solve a lot of inconvenience,” Li said.
Although Winter Break on the Hill is an evolving program, Nam said at present there is not enough demand to justify the opening of a dining hall on campus during break.
But if demand did pick up enough to support it, he added that Housing officials may open one of the smaller restaurants.
Although Zhang and Li appreciate the option to stay on campus during break, both said they would probably not stay on campus over break again – Zhang because she did not like the experience this year and Li because he hopes to take a vacation next year or visit his family in China.