By Aliyah Basuil

Isabella Lopez taking in the beautiful view in Oaxaca, Mexico (photo courtesy of Isabella Lopez).

Isabella Lopez taking in the beautiful view in Oaxaca, Mexico (photo courtesy of Isabella Lopez).

Whether it was visiting an unfamiliar country or binge-watching different shows on Netflix, winter break was the perfect opportunity for students at the University of Northwestern – St. Paul to unwind and experience new things. With three weeks of freedom, what kind of adventures did students have?

“The beach was bae,” said Isabella Lopez, a freshman history major who went to southern Mexico for the holidays. A Chicago-born city girl, Lopez took winter break as a chance to visit her family and friends in Oaxaca, a Mexican state rich in culture and tradition. “The place I stayed in is the most culturally diverse state in Mexico. The cool thing about it is there are so many indigenous people there, and each of the native groups have their own traditions and events they celebrate.”

California native Jaleel Johnson, a junior biblical studies and philosophy major at Northwestern, returned to his hometown of Corona (a suburb of Los Angeles) to spend the holidays with his family and girlfriend Amy. “Best part? Exploring LA with Amy; it was her first time. We hiked the Hollywood sign, hit a couple beaches and went to the Santa Monica Pier.”

Some students used Christmas break to begin new traditions. David Stevens, a freshman engineering student, spent a day with his family at Afton Alps in Hastings, Minnesota. “My brothers all flew back to Minnesota, so we were all together for a few days. We decided to start a new family tradition of snowboarding together; we’re going to do it every Christmas Eve.”

Corban Halbur, Northwestern graduate school student and former starting quarterback for the Northwestern Eagles, went to Green Bay, Wisconsin over his winter break for a family reunion and to see Lambeau Field with his parents and brother. A Packers super fan, he noted: “The best part was walking through the Packers stadium with my family, because they’re our favorite team, and they’re going to be in the Super Bowl this year.”

Winter break can also bring meaningful change in perspective, like it did for freshman transfer and nursing student Rachel Torres, who left the United States for two weeks with her family to chase adventure in London, Paris, Amsterdam and Brussels.

During her time there, she and her family went to see the Eiffel Tower, the London Eye and many other tourist attractions, but she was also able to redefine what “home” means to her. “I think what I really enjoyed in Europe was the lifestyle: no cars, just transit and buses and a lot of walking,” Torres said. “I could definitely see myself moving there. The first week when we got there, I was a bit skeptical; sometimes it’s scary to leave a comfortable place. By the second week though, I could see myself making a big change in my life in the future and eventually moving there. Sometimes it’s hard for people to see change, you know? But being in Europe helped me see that home isn’t necessarily a place. There’s so much more to see.”

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