Graphic of a Thanksgiving dinner and people serving themselves. Credit: Claire Lorimor / Mustang News

Turkey, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie on the table — it’s a traditional style Thanksgiving dinner that many Cal Poly students will indulge in this upcoming week. From Nov. 21-25, most students leave for fall break, where they can go home and spend time with family, but this is a luxury not all students can afford – as many out-of-state students have no choice but to stay in the area.

Biology sophomore Elisa Delgado is staying in San Luis Obispo instead of flying back home to New Hampshire. It would put too much financial stress on her to travel across the country fo the week — only to fly back out for winter break shortly after.

“It’s hard to be bi-coastal. Traveling is always a huge effort. Those days are always so long and tiring and definitely really expensive,” Delgado said. “It definitely adds a whole different layer of financial stress to being at college in addition to tuition and stuff like that.”

Delgado hasn’t seen her family since summer break and won’t see them again until after finals week. Another factor that keeps her from going home during fall break is the relentless quarter system schedule. With its fast pace, it’s challenging to even take a week off from school without falling behind, whether this time is allotted by the university or not. 

“The quarter system moves by so quickly that it just doesn’t make sense to travel, like have the cost of traveling across the country for a week, but then also knowing in the back of my head that I’m going to go home in two weeks anyways and to see my family,” Delgado said.

Liam O’Hara, environmental management and protection sophomore, is in the same position as Delgado. Hailing all the way from Massachusetts, he knew that going to college out of his home state would be tough. But despite this, he views the distance as a positive force that pushes him to be more independent.

“College is a transition anyways, obviously,” O’Hara said. “It’s gonna be a little more difficult without friends and family that I knew previously around, but I kind of view it as a good challenge because eventually, that’s gonna happen to everybody, so why not do it?”

Coming from a large family, Thanksgiving gave O’Hara the opportunity to connect with extended family members he didn’t get to see regularly. Though he can’t spend it with his close or extended family this year, he looks forward to spending time with them on Christmas.

For now, O’Hara is still able to connect with family, though just not physically. 

“My mom sends me stuff that has special meaning, like snacks but also inside jokes and stuff, which is a kind of a fun way to keep up with her cause FaceTiming’s cool, but it definitely doesn’t make up for what I’m missing,” O’Hara said.

As a freshman, O’Hara made up for missing his family’s dinner by attending a different one. He traveled with his friend that lived in-state to San Francisco, which was also the first time he had been to a place in California outside of San Luis Obispo. Though he doesn’t have plans to travel far this year, he intends to celebrate locally.

“This year I’m not sure if I’m going to hitch a ride with someone somewhere in-state, but right now all I have planned is the Thanksgiving dinner at the house that I’m renting,” O’Hara said. “Hopefully, there’s other people that are sticking around that I can hang out with.” 

For Delgado, a normal Thanksgiving included family coming to her home, as it was the “hub for reunions.” They would pitch in to cook dinner and her family would run in a local turkey trot.

Delgado plans to start off her break by backpacking in Big Sur with one of her roommates, exploring the nature aspects she loves about California. During the break, she also wants to see her brother that lives in-state and spend time with friends that also stuck around. 

 “I just try to keep my excitement, knowing that I’m going to see them in just a few more weeks, and I can use this time to do fun things,” Delgado said. “So even though it’s not the most ideal way to spend the holiday, I know I can still make it good.”

With winter break only a few weeks away, out-of-state students maintain their excitement to reunite with their families and plan to make up for missed time.