Heading elsewhere for the holidays

By Courtney Pischke

They say it’s better to give than to receive. But when it comes to students at the University, most prefer the latter, in the form of plane tickets.

Although most students associate the holiday season with spending quality time with family, in reality, many will be venturing away from their loved ones to play in the sun and spend money.

For Erik Argeropolos, a junior in business, the holiday season starts around Dec. 20, when his parents pack up the family in the Saab and crawl their way down I-290 from Wheaton to Chicago. While this officially begins the Argeropolos Family Christmas Shopping Extravaganza, Argeropolos’ holiday funding relies solely on the cashiers at TIS, e-Follett and the Illini Union Bookstore.

“In the past few years, I’ve been hitting the Christmas sales at the bookstores too, for all those Illini presents,” Argeropolos said. “But I’m so broke right now. I need as much money as I can get from my books.”

When in the Windy City, Argeropolos said he uses his money from returned books to take advantage of last-minute sales while the rest of the family takes in the sights and sounds of Michigan Avenue. His favorite part is that while his parents focus on downtown’s decorated windows, he buys them presents.

“The anticipation of seeing how someone will react to the present you give them is cool,” Argeropolos said.

But don’t be deceived; Argeropolos still gets butterflies in his stomach when he thinks about Christmas morning.

“I usually get to open one present on Christmas Eve. But my parents pick it out and it’s usually a tease,” Argeropolos said. “We save all the big stuff until Christmas morning, so it frustrates me, and I don’t sleep all that good.”

The holiday excitement doesn’t end after opening all the presents and downing the eggnog (Argeropolos’s favorite). Dec. 26 usually stirs up memories of waiting in long lines and digging through receipts. But Argeropolos and his family hustle to O’Hare to catch their annual American Airlines flight to Orlando for golf and relaxation.

“It’s golf every day and sitting in a hot-tub,” Argeropolos said. “Disney’s old – been there, done that.”

Meanwhile, Jenny Hahn, a junior in applied life studies, and her family plan on using the days after Christmas to prepare for a week of gambling away hard-earned money.

“The Vegas trip is kind of a birthday gift because me and my cousin turned 21 over the summer and our parents wanted to take us there,” said Hahn. “I need clothes, but I’m saving my money to gamble it away and drink.”

Hahn said her big present this year will be a family trip to Las Vegas even though she has asked Santa for the same present every year.

“I ask Santa – ‘Papa Hahn’ – for a puppy every year just to make him laugh because I know I can’t have one in college,” Hahn said. “I would love to have a lab but I can’t keep it here, and I don’t expect my parents to take care of one because they travel so much.”

Despite another year without a wagging tail to wake up next to, Hahn said she still can’t wait to lose her “gambling virginity” at the slot machines.

“When I was little, I would give my parents quarters to gamble for me,” Hahn said. “But that doesn’t really count.”

Some students, like Grace Young, a junior in LAS, wish their lives were just as easy.

“I did a little Christmas shopping after Thanksgiving because I had some free time,” said Young. “But the lines were absolutely crazy.”

When not dodging disgruntled customers during the holiday season, Young said one her favorite parts of the holiday season doesn’t involve spending money or going on vacations. Young said she won’t be taking a vacation this year because she’s too old. They went to Disney World last year.

“I like the anticipation and spending time with the family, especially since we don’t get to see each other much anymore,” Young said. “Looking at other people’s decorated houses is real nice too.”

While Young admitted that she doesn’t help her dad put up Christmas decorations because she’s always at school, her little brother occasionally lends a hand.

“If we started over Thanksgiving break I could’ve helped, but we usually don’t start that early. Maybe it’s laziness,” Young said. “So my dad and brother just did the tree.”

There is one decoration Young said she hopes to find on Christmas day – a white I-Pod wrapped under the tree.

“I know they’re expensive, but that’s really the only thing I asked for,” Young said.