UC Merced recently released a spring break travel warning for parts of Mexico, but many UC Merced students will be spending their already limited funds on gas or train tickets home, rather than on lavish vacations.
Sixty-one percent of the 3,200 UC Merced students received some sort of need-based financial assistance, according to the university. So students who are hurting financially in a healthy economy are feeling it more now, and it reflects in how they spend their vacations.
UC Merced spring break starts Monday and ends Thursday.
Janelle Hobbs, a first-year student, said her big plan next week is to stay home in Fresno and play a lot of Nintendo Wii.
"We used to go on vacation a lot around California, but now we stay home," she said. "We don't get out of the house as much either. We used to go out to eat and go to the movies a lot."
Hobbs said her mom, who works as a teacher, just received a layoff notice. They'll find out in May if her mother will have a job next year, she said.
Hobbs' father, who is also a state employee, took a 15-percent pay cut this year because he has three furlough days a month.
She isn't worried about her parents, she said, because they have a plan in place to get through tough times if her mother gets laid off. For now, it means sticking to a strict budget.
UC Merced senior Jasminn Chestnut said she'll be staying in Merced during spring break because she can't afford the Amtrak ticket home to Los Angeles.
Chestnut has been out of work for five months and recently got a job on campus and another one off-campus, she said, so she'll be working through most of her vacation.
Spring vacations are typically characterized by frivolity and fun, but UC Merced freshman Jasmine Marquez is not following convention.
The human biology student said she'll spend her break managing El Sancho, her family's Mexican restaurant in Lake Tahoe, while her parents travel to Jalisco, Mexico, to visit her elderly grandmother.
Marquez is a first generation college student and she said she owes everything to her parents. This is one way to show her appreciation.
Since the recession began, Marquez said the restaurant has been hurting.
Fewer people are visiting Lake Tahoe during peak seasons, so that means her family can't hire a person to run the restaurant while they go on vacation.
It also means that some days the restaurant only brings in about $300 during tourist season, rather than the average $3,000, she said.
"I have financial aid, but everything else they pay for," she said. "When I was younger, my family was very poor and my dad told me the only tools he could give me was my education."
Marquez plans to attend medical school after she graduates and said her family told her they would sell their home to pay her tuition.
The only true way to pay them back, she said, is to follow through on all of her goals.
Reporter Jamie Oppenheim can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or firstname.lastname@example.org.