International Students to Pay for Hotel Accommodations During Winter Shutdown

From 9 a.m. Dec. 23 through 12 p.m. Jan. 2, all students are required to vacate campus housing during the annual winter shutdown. Since 2020, the College has allowed international students to stay in on-campus housing during the winter shutdown.
However, this policy will no longer be in effect this winter.

Before the pandemic, International Student and Scholar Services reserved rooms at The Hotel at Oberlin or the Oberlin Inn for international students who couldn’t go home for short periods of time. This year, ISSS is partnering with The Hotel at Oberlin and has reserved 37 double rooms in the Hotel for international students to occupy during
the winter shutdown, filling all double rooms available in The Hotel at Oberlin.

“70 students have signed up for a space [as of Nov. 28],” Assistant Dean and Director of ISSS Josh Whitson wrote in an email to the Review.

International students will be able to stay at The Hotel at Oberlin this year at a rate of $40 per day for the duration of the winter shutdown, for a total cost of around $400 for the whole break. Students with demonstrated financial need are able to request aid
to subsidize housing costs through the of Office Financial Aid. 64 percent of students who will be staying at the Hotel are receiving financial aid to offset the cost of housing in the hotel.

ISSS has filled all the rooms available for use and is now using a waitlist. Whitson said that ISSS was able to accommodate all students who needed to stay for the duration of the winter shutdown and is working on accommodating students on the waitlist who need to stay for only a few days by offering solutions outside of Oberlin.

“This is about double the amount of students from the last time that my office helped run this housing during the shutdown period,” Whitson said. “International travel is still difficult. For example, many of our Chinese students pre-COVID would have traveled, but even though we’re acting like COVID’s gone in the United States, if you look at a country like China it’s still very difficult to fly there. [There are] limited flights, you have to test a couple times before you can even fly, and once you land, depending on the area you’re going to, there could be a quarantine — I think the minimum right now is ten days, so especially if you’re planning on coming back for Winter Term, that doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

Whitson said that he has begun working on a proposal with the Office of Residential Education to create a permanent process for students to request to stay on campus during winter shutdown for both international and domestic students.

“This shutdown has made it clear that we’re not post-COVID,” Whitson said. “I think we’re dealing with a new normal and going forward we’d like the option available for students just to stay on campus.” Brian Do, a College third-year student, stayed in on-campus housing during the 2021 winter shutdown and requested aid through ObieCares. This year, ISSS will be able to use funds from ObieCares to offset food costs for students staying at the Hotel with demonstrated need.

“I would have had to pay around $475 for housing and dining over winter break [last year],” Do said. “Student employment is not as robust during [summer and winter breaks]. So I have to manage my budget really tightly in case any emergency arises. I’m very lucky that ObieCares helped me cover winter break costs last year.”

Several students who have decided not to stay at The Hotel at Oberlin this winter said that housing and dining costs were major factors in their decision.

“International students can only work 20 hour a week during the school year, and the price of staying at the Hotel is almost two weeks of my wages,” second-year College student Dan-Hà Lê said.

Instead, some students will travel within the United States with their peers and split the costs among themselves.

“I am planning on traveling with my friends to New York City since we could set our own housing budget and split costs for a much better deal than staying on campus,” Do said.

International students are able to reduce costs by traveling with friends both from Oberlin and other colleges, studying in the United States.

“Over break, we think we will just eat out or shop for groceries and prepare the food together,” Ha Ngyuen, a second-year College student who will be traveling with friends, wrote in an email to the Review. “We decided not to stay on campus because during winter break, a lot of other Vietnamese students — we kind of have a community in America — will also go to New York, so we hope to meet with other friends there.”