Students respond to second “mental wellness day” in lieu of a traditional spring break

Some spent their day off studying, others relaxing — few felt well

Sophomore Claudia Rodriguez spent 13 hours of her wellness day on Tuesday studying for an organic chemistry midterm.

Instead of feeling relaxed and refreshed on her day off, Rodriguez felt like it was just another school day.

“I don’t feel any more relaxed or refreshed after having the wellness day. It just felt as though it was another day that I had to spend all day working,” Rodriguez said.

Whether they studied all day or actually managed to take a break, many students left the second wellness day feeling stressed and anxious. Many wondered how they would have handled the alternative spring break differently if they were in charge.

Sophomore theatre major Olivia Troast spent her wellness day trying to prioritize her mental health and hanging out with friends, but it didn’t come without a price.

“Yesterday was one of my favorite days this semester because I made the choice to prioritize my mental health over school work,” Troast said. “However, now I am insanely stressed because I have to finish my essay today, but I don’t regret it. I think I made the right choice for myself.”

Wellness days were created after USC canceled spring break to limit travel to and from campus during the pandemic. In its place, the university strategically placed these wellness days throughout the semester to give students a break from schoolwork.

Tuesday was the second of five wellness days this semester. The first fell on Friday, March 12, and the third will take place on Wednesday, April 7.

On wellness days, no classes are held and “no classwork is expected of students”, the university said in its original statement announcing the days. Students are encouraged to take this time to rest and connect with friends and family.

Despite expectations, most students spent their day doing classwork.

Junior Roxanna Shabahang was among those who did not take the day off. Although she did not have class, the health promotion and disease prevention student still had a lot of work to catch up on.

“Yesterday was more of a chance to just do my homework, not necessarily relax,” Shabahang said. “I feel very burnt out right now and honestly could have really benefited from a spring break.”

Sophmore Krya Vaughn was assigned homework on this week’s wellness day and spent several hours completed 44 pages of reading and a 400-word response.

Annenberg Media has previously reported that many students wish there was another alternative, wanting a longer break.

USG President Alexis Areias agrees that the wellness days aren’t doing their job. Though she recognizes the need to minimize travel, Areias is critical of the choice to break up the time off.

“The pandemic has put tremendous stress on everyone,” Areias said. “Students needed so much more support, and quite frankly, these wellness days aren’t cutting it. As a student, I feel really let down.”

Troast suggests an entire week with no assignments, even if classes were still in session.

Sophomore Gigi Comer thinks another possible alternative is to lengthen the duration of the time off since one day doesn’t give students the ability to relax.

“Maybe wellness days could last a three-day period — that way students actually have the ability to enjoy a break from having to worry about assignments,” Comer said.

There are three more mental wellness days this semester: Wednesday, April 7, Thursday, April 22, and Friday, April 30. Students are still encouraged to take those days off as much as possible to focus on their mental health.

Correction March 24, 6:30 p.m.: A previous version of this story misspelled Roxanna Shabahang and Krya Vaughn is a sophomore, not a freshman.