Indulging In Winter Drinks, And 11 Other Ways To Actually Enjoy The End Of The Fall Semester

Indulging In Winter Drinks, And 11 Other Ways To Actually Enjoy The End Of The Fall Semester

Just because it's time for finals doesn't mean these last few weeks have to suck.


Ahhh, it's that time of year again: the awkward three or four weeks of the fall semester that are jammed between Thanksgiving and Christmas. College students have just gotten a taste of what it's like to be at home with very few responsibilities, and honestly, there's nothing they want more than to go back to that false childhood-like state.

However, there's also so much fun to be had before students say goodbye to their friends for nearly a month. Plus, it's the holiday season—who wants to wish that away? Even with the stress of finals, these 12 activities can help make these weeks some of the best of the year.

1. Throw a holiday party.

Office Christmas

Whether it's Secret Santa, White Elephant, or Ugly Sweater themed, holiday parties are the perfect way to enjoy the season and forget about the stress your classwork brings—even if it's only for a few hours.

2. Use the cold weather as an excuse for a movie night. 


After a cold, long day of classes, it's really nice to pop some popcorn and indulge in nostalgic Christmas movies, or the Hallmark-style ones if we're being serious here. Gotta have something to blame those stress-filled tears on.

3. Find seasonal activities to do with your friends. 


Ice skating, Christmas light viewing, even snowball fighting make for exciting winter-specific events for you and your friends. These are the sorts of memories that turn into lifelong traditions.

4. Check out a few basketball games. 

Orange Krush

With winter comes college basketball. Even if you're not into sports, student-run fan organizations, such as the Orange Krush at UIUC, make gamedays some of the most exciting of each week for students looking for a fun evening activity.

5. Get your gift shopping done. 


Finals are stressful, but the holidays are fast-approaching. Take a healthy break from studying and get your shopping taken care of—it'll be both fun and productive.

6. Bundle up in your softest clothing. 


Yes, it may be cold, but that means you get to wear your comfiest clothing 24/7. Sweaters and warm socks for class? Count me in!

7. Take advantage of the freedom you have at school.


When you go home for winter break, you'll be back to living under your parents' roof, which often means you'll be back to living by their rules for a month. Use these last few weeks to really enjoy being the kind-of-adult you get to be on campus.

8. Make time for self-care and relaxation. 


The stress of this time of year can take a toll on you both mentally and physically. Taking the time to do a 15 minute face mask or take an extra long shower can make a world of a difference.

9. Give back in your college community. 

With the holidays come many opportunities to volunteer. As a student, you spend most of your year on a campus that may be in a different community than the one you call home. Because of this, it only seems right to give back to the community you've become a part of. UIUC students, be sure to check in with the Office of Volunteer Programs to get started!

10.  Indulge in winter drinks. 


Every coffee shop in America seems to have drinks they only sell during the winter. You work hard and deserve to treat yo' self a few times during this ever-stressful segment of the year.

11.  Curl up with a blanket and a book. 


There's nothing like snow gracefully hitting the ground outside to create the perfect reading environment. Take a short break from your studying-induced panic to enjoy a book you've been dying to read all semester (or year or two... college is rough, man).

12.  Make the most of the time you have left with your friends. 


Even if you're ready for a break from the people you've been spending all of your time with, you're going to miss them when they're miles, not steps, away from you at any given moment. Cherish the time you have with them—they've probably reached family-status in your life anyway.

It's the most wonderful time of the year—being a college student shouldn't completely hinder your ability to enjoy this marvelous month. Finals don't have to rule your world—winter holidays can play a role in your life right now too.

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Here's Why You Shouldn't Donate to The Salvation Army This Holiday Season (Or Ever)

No, I’m not a grinch or a scrooge. I’m just a member of the LGBT+ community that is tired of seeing my community suffer at the hands of organizations that are supposed to help us.

The holiday season is upon us, bringing mall Santas, twinkling lights, and the well-known bell ringers with their red buckets stationed outside busy department stores. The Salvation Army is a mainstay in the memories of our childhood holidays. I remember a number of years where my parents would give each of my sisters and I a handful of change to put in the shiny red bucket as we walked into Wal-Mart to shop for our family Christmas dinner. On the surface, the Salvation Army is an organization with good intentions of helping the less fortunate, especially during the holiday season. However, a quick Google search exposes the organization’s discriminatory practices.

The Salvation Army is a Protestant Christian denomination and an international charitable organization. Their mission statement, as stated on their website, reads: “The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.”

Despite their insistence of nondiscriminatory practices, however, there have been several instances of discrimination, specifically against members of the LGBT+ community. In July 2017, a Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center in Brooklyn, New York, was found by the New York City Commission on Human Rights (NYCCHR) to be discriminating. Three other centers in New York City were also cited as being discriminatory. Violations within the four centers included refusing to accept transgender people as patients or tenants, assigning trans people rooms based on their sex assigned at birth instead of their lived gender identity, unwarranted physical examinations to determine if trans people are on hormone therapy or have had surgery, and segregating transgender patients into separate rooms. The NYCCHR had been tipped off about the mistreatment, and testers from the commission went to the cited centers and found clear evidence of the mistreatment. One of the clinics told the testers outright, “No, we don’t [accept transgender patients].” Another clinic’s representative said, “People with moving male parts would be housed with men.”

This isn’t the first time the Salvation Army has discriminated specifically against transgender people. In 2014, a transgender woman from Paris, Texas fled her home due to death threats she received related to her gender identity. The police told her, “Being the way you are, you should expect that.” She went to Dallas and found emergency shelter at the Carr P. Collins Social Service Center, run by the Salvation Army. The emergency shelter allowed her to stay for 30 days. Towards the end of her 30-day stay, she began looking for other long-term shelter options. One option many of the other women staying in the shelter had recently entered was a two-year housing program also run by the Salvation Army. When the woman interviewed for the program, she was told she was disqualified for the program because she had not had gender reassignment surgery. The counselor for the program later claimed there was a waiting list, but it came out that two women who arrived at the emergency shelter after the transgender woman had already entered the program. The transgender woman filed a complaint with Dallas’s Fair Housing Office, which protects against discrimination on the basis of gender identity. She was able to find other housing through the Shared Housing Project, a project that aims to find transgender people with housing who are willing to support those without.

The Salvation Army’s Christian affiliation drives the organization’s statements and beliefs. The church has a page on its website dedicated to its decided stance on the LGBT+ community that seems to paint a nice picture. Their actions, however, tell a different story. There have been several accounts reporting the Salvation Army’s refusal of service to LGBT+ people unless they renounce their sexuality, end same-sex relationships, or, in some cases, attend services “open to all who confess Christ as Savior and who accept and abide by The Salvation Army’s doctrine and discipline.” The church claims it holds a “positive view of human sexuality,” but then clarifies that “sexual intimacy is understood as a gift of God to be enjoyed within the context of heterosexual marriage.” This belief extends to their staff, asking LGBT+ employees to renounce their beliefs and essentially their identity in order to align with the organization. The Salvation Army believes that “The theological belief regarding sexuality is that God has ordained marriage to be between one man and one woman and sexual activity is restricted to one’s spouse. Non-married individuals would therefore be celibate in the expression of their sexuality.” Essentially, gay people can’t get married. Unmarried people can’t have sex. Therefore, gay people are forbidden from being intimate with one another. This is unfair to ask of any employee, especially considering that one’s relationship status does not interfere with how well anyone can do their job.

If you are still looking to donate to a non-homophobic and transphobic organization this holiday season, here are some great pro-LGBT+ organizations with outreach similar to that of the Salvation Army:

  • Doctors Without Borders: medical and emergency relief
  • Habitat for Humanity: homelessness and housing
  • Local homeless shelters: search the National Coalition for the Homeless’ website for shelters near you!
  • Local food bank: find your local food bank through Feeding America here.
  • The Trevor Project: a leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBT+ young people ages 13-24.
Cover Image Credit: Ed Glen Today

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Holiday Block Leave For The Army Was Just Too Good To Be True

"When something looks too good to be true, it usually is." -Emmy Rossum


Everyone enjoys the times where their soldier gets to come home. The multitude of dates, romantic gestures, and the simple fact that you get to spend time with your soldier feels like a dream.

You get to finally have your best friend back, and for about two weeks, you don't get that feeling of loneliness. I remember feeling extremely happy seeing my soldier smile and laugh with me over the silliest of things and thinking to myself that I missed moments like this. I also loved getting dolled up and going out to eat at some of our favorite places. Yet again, my heart and stomach were more than satisfied, I caught myself swooning about how the entirety of these events was dreamlike.

The first week flew by so fast. I blinked, and next thing you know he is packing up some of his things. I realized within the two-week time period I had already grown accustomed to him again. I had gotten overly attached, and I honestly did not know how to feel about it. I clearly did not want him to leave, but he had to. I felt myself growing irritated near the end of holiday block leave because I guess I felt there was nothing I could do to keep these insanely wonderful moments going. I knew that once he left it would be back to the routine of never-ending work and stress.

I was not ready for college to start back at this point. He wasn't ready to be brain fried from butt loads of work either, but my soldier has more determination than I sometimes. I am working on my determination and motivation, but I still will forever cry when stressed, or when I feel I have no control over a situation. I tried so hard to hold back the tears this time around, but it just couldn't be done. I did not breakdown I just shed a tear or two, so I can say I have improved.

It's just so hard.

I loved seeing him for those two weeks, but at the same time, it sucks because it's like we're being teased. We get to spend time with our military loved ones, but it's for such a short amount of time. Of course, we lived it to the fullest, but that doesn't make his leaving any easier.

Now, I'm just counting down the days until he gets another leave and I get to spend that time with him again.

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