Trapped in Provo: How the holidays can still be holly and jolly

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Cynthia Nadal has never made it home for Christmas during her three years at BYU, but that’s because flights home to Cartegna, Spain, aren’t exactly the most affordable.

However, the early childhood education major has never allowed herself to get too lonely during the holiday weeks stranded in Provo. “I am really good at entertaining myself,” Nadal said. “I either write stories, listen to music, play games. If not, I know there are several people in this ward staying for Christmas; we will probably get together at some point.”

Nadal spent last Christmas with the missionary who baptized some of her family members. This year she will spend Christmas Day with an old roommate and fill the rest of her time with work.

When asked what she missed most about Christmas home in Spain, Nadal said it was her grandma’s turkey meatballs. “She makes meatballs every Christmas, and then we play bingo and we sing Christmas carols in Spanish, English and French. I will miss that and wrapping presents with my grandma.”

But aside from the problem of having to globe-trot home for the holidays, other students hunker down in Provo because it’s where their jobs are.

Ben Schultz was a freshman when he spent his first Christmas away from home. Required to stay and work at his off-campus job, Schultz was left in an empty, quiet dorm room. “I was in Helaman Halls, and the worst part about it was over Christmas break even the Cannon Center closes, so I didn’t have any food. I had to pay for my own meals that two weeks,” Schultz said.

But Schultz’s bishopric made sure he wasn’t entirely on his own. Each night they arranged a place for him to go for dinner.

“It turned out to be one of the best Christmases I had,” Schultz recalled. “I lucked out. I had a fantastic bishop who made me feel loved.”

Schultz spent Christmas Day at his bishop’s home. “To my great astonishment, they got me a gift. I was just grateful to be in a place where I was loved, where I had food; I was very content with that,” Schultz said. “They went over and beyond. That was extremely moving for me.”

Schultz said that act is something he won’t forget.

Ratna Lingam, first counselor in BYU’s 250th ward, said looking after ward members is one of the responsibilities of being in a BYU bishopric.

“As a bishopric we realize that it is our stewardship to see that these students have a place where they can spend the holidays with a host family locally or be invited for at least a special Christmas meal,” Lingam said.

And just because students are stuck in Provo, it does not mean there aren’t activities available to bring Christmas cheer.

“In Utah, there are a number of fun places to visit during the Christmas holidays, which include a visit to Temple Square and Thanksgiving Point in Lehi to see the Christmas lights, just to list a few,” Lingam said. “Christmas is a wonderful time of the year, which allows us to reflect on our Savior’s birth and spend special time with our families and friends.”

So, even though campus might be empty, the traffic cleared and apartments quiet, with the outreach of church leaders, family and friends, students can still have a merry Christmas in Provo.

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