To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, Virginia Tech’s 2021 spring break will be observed over the course of five separate well-being days throughout the semester. The adapted schedule is aimed to discourage travel while also encouraging more frequent chances for downtime.

“My advice to students is to use these days to shorten the week a little bit and be as prepared as possible to take the entire day off from any type of school work, as your academic schedule allows,” said Chris Wise, assistant vice president for health and wellness. “Just like you would for spring break when it’s a full week, put yourself in the best position to do something you enjoy on those days, whatever it is that gives you energy, because that’s what’s going to best prepare to return to working hard until the next break.”

The first one-day break is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 5. The rest will follow on Thursday, Feb. 25; Wednesday, March 17; Tuesday, April 6; and Monday, April 26.

“According to the university’s official academic calendar, there should be no class meetings, assignments due, nor exams administered on these dates,” said Provost Cyril Clarke in a message to faculty. “It is also requested that faculty do their best to avoid assignment due dates and scheduling of exams on instructional days immediately following one of these spring break holidays so that students do not feel obligated to spend their down time studying or completing course requirements.”

Students who feel these guidelines are not being followed are advised to reach out to their professors, their professor’s department head, or the Dean of Students, in that order if the problem escalates.

As a part of these days off, Student Engagement and Campus Life (SECL), Hokie Wellness, and Rec Sports have partnered to ensure well-rounded wellness opportunities are available for both on and off-campus students. Based on the seven dimensions of well-being, each day will include options and tools to help students feel rested in the areas of Mental, Spiritual, Emotional, Social, Sensory, Creative, and Physical well-being.

“A lot of people just don’t know how to really fully rest,” said Adrienne Phillips, reservations coordinator for SECL. “We want to provide students with opportunities to explore each area of well-being and give them the chance to really assess areas they might be lacking in and use these days to help fill those needs.”

Different activities will be promoted during each of the days off, and by no means should students feel obligated to use them nor limited to taking advantage of programing during the well-being days. Many of the wellness opportunities are offered on a regular basis.

“Students are able to do almost all of the activities we’re offering on many other days throughout the semester,” said Kelly McPherson, events coordinator for Rec Sports. “We hope students will use these days to explore what we have to offer and then know that we’ll be here in the future when they want to check it out again.”

Taking time for self-care and enjoyment during these days off isn’t just important for students’ emotional well-being, it can also support their future personal and academic growth. Understanding how to effectively utilize such down time in ways that feel truly restorative is one of the skills Swathi Prabhu teaches during a variety of Hokie Wellness workshops.

“Being able to take breaks to create school-life balance and honoring  your mind and body’s need for rest is key to maintaining investment and motivation in the things you find meaningful – both in the day-to-day and long-term” said Swathi Prabhu, Mental Health Initiatives Coordinator for Hokie Wellness. “Research shows us that regular engagement in healthy coping skills has multidimensional benefits – from reductions in interpersonal conflicts to reductions in symptoms of test anxiety. Studies on mindfulness and meditation have even shown that this particular self-care practice can increase our focus, increase our working memory capacity, and even improve standardized test scores.”

Whether it’s taking part in a wellness activity, exploring the outdoor offerings of the New River Valley, or simply relaxing at home, Hokies are strongly encouraged to use these days off in ways they would most enjoy.

“We live in an incredible part of the country for taking a break and enjoying the outdoors, and I really hope students will use these days to get outside and find ways to safely relax and re-charge,” Wise said.

Written by Travis Williams