But a lucky group of 15 students from the College of Agricultural and Human Sciences spent the time basking in warm Mexican sunshine while learning about colonial architecture, archeology and Mexican culture.
This was the third year for the college's Mexican Adventure program in which students spend part of their winter break learning about another culture. The destination was the historic city of Puebla, which is located between Mexico City and the port of Veracruz.
"It's so valuable to have a cross-cultural understanding of another country's economy, language and currency exchange. It adds an important layer to a college student's understanding of the world," said Jeff Plant, professor of human ecology who teaches courses on architectural history.
In addition to Plant, the students were accompanied on the trip also by Marketta Laurila, chair of the TTU department of foreign languages, and Claire Stinson, TTU's vice president for business and planning.
The students began their cultural adventure Jan. 3 and returned to Cookeville Jan. 12 just in time for the beginning of Spring 2011 semester classes. Students visited several Mexican colonial cathedrals and archeological sites, including the ruins of Cholula as well as archeological digs in Teotihuacán and the Templo Mayor in Mexico City.
Travis Ramsey, a senior from Clarkrange who is majoring in both agricultural engineering technology and agribusiness management, said a highlight of the trip for him was the visit made to an orphanage for girls. The students purchased toys and candy for the girls on Three Kings Day Jan. 6, the day Catholics believe the Three Wise Men delivered frankincense, myrrh and gold to the baby Jesus.
"That was really the best part for me. They were thrilled to have visitors," he said.
Plans are under way now for the next installment of Mexican Adventure in January 2012. The current student cost is $400 plus whatever additional amount the student wishes to spend on souvenirs and food.
"Traveling with a university group while in college is simply the least expensive and best way to gain an international experience. Cultural experiences such as these quickly expand your mind," Plant said. "The university administration has strongly supported international travel for our TTU students and we're grateful that they continue to support this trip."
Stinson, who paid for her own expenses on the trip, said "going on this trip made me remember what the point is of all this stuff we do — it’s about the students.”