SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- With COVID-19 cases rising and travel restrictions in place, many local college students are unable to make it home for the holidays this year.

With Thanksgiving just over a week away, Western Mass News is getting answers on what local colleges are doing to make campus feel even more like home.

At American International College in Springfield, campus seems empty, but as associate dean of student affairs Alexander Cross told Western Mass News, it’s far from it.

“It feels empty, but that’s because most of our classes are remote synchronous,” Cross said.

Cross said even with the holidays quickly approaching, a time when campus actually empties out, AIC will be more full than it has been in years past.

“My guess is it will probably have about 100 students who are staying on-campus for Thanksgiving break, so that’s a good chunk of the students that live on-campus,” Cross noted.

Knowing that travel restrictions in Massachusetts are strict and that the CDC is encouraging less travel over the holidays, it’s a situation the college is watching closely.

“We asked the students to provide us with their intent for Thanksgiving break. In a typical year, we would close for Thanksgiving break, but this year, we’re not closing any of the residence halls…Students can either have the opportunity to stay with us for the break or they can let us know they’ll return home for the break and not return back until the spring semester,” Cross explained.

Students will be allowed to travel to low-risk states, but if they do choose to go to an area deemed high-risk, they'll have to follow state guidelines and test negative if they wish to return.

“We are over-communicating with students and making sure they understand what the Massachusetts travel guidelines are and how we will support them through the decision they make this Thanksgiving break,” Cross added.

Although students may not be able to go home, AIC is doing a few things to help.

“Students that are staying here were provided a little extra touch of home. We will be working closely with dining services and we are offering a big brunch Thanksgiving morning and a full Thanksgiving dinner for them Thursday night. Friday morning, we will also be offering a upscale brunch,” Cross said.

It’s something that international student Stefano Durante said AIC prioritizes every year.

“I’ve been here for four years now and I’ve been here for every Thanksgiving since…I know from previous years, they have the faculty have students for Thanksgiving to have them feel that Thanksgiving feel,” Durante explained.

Cross said, “We’re trying to make it feel as home as possible, even though it’s not the same as spending it with family.”

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