3 Winter Break Alternatives

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Winter is not just for relaxing after finals (although that’s all you’ll be thinking about after finals week!). There’s a lot of great opportunities to fill your winter break, but you have to start planning them now! Everything from plane seats to movie tickets sells out quickly during the holiday season, and especially if you’re going to try to coordinate a group effort on a college kid’s budget, you need to start planning … yesterday.

Study Abroad!

Many programs offer small “winter session” programs that you can do over the holidays. Yes, you could probably do this at your own university, but that wouldn’t be nearly as exciting. If you do study somewhere else over winter, it can be a great way to both be productive and travel.

It’ll also cost significantly less than a whole semester abroad. There are definitely benefits to spending half a year in a foreign place; most importantly, you have more time to learn about the culture, the people, the language, and just explore. However, not every place is for every person. Maybe you can’t stand to be cold or hate humidity, or just don’t want to be away from home for that long. Studying abroad during winter intersession can be a great alternative.

Additionally, just because it’s cold in the US doesn’t mean it’s cold everywhere else. The seasons are flipped in the Southern Hemisphere, so places like New Zealand are 50-75 degrees during December. That’ll seem like heaven after going through winter at school! Take advantage of the time and go somewhere a little warmer than where you are at.

Something like traveling abroad takes a lot of planning and precautions.  You need to get your passport, apply for the correct program, and get your health affairs all situated.  It takes time to get your vaccines up to date and verify your insurance coverage.  So it’s important to get started as early as possible if this is something you’re interested in! Go down to your study abroad office now and get this started, even if you have to wait until spring break or next year!

Travel in the US

There are plenty of great places in travel in the US as well. This has the benefit of not being quite so plan-intensive or expensive. Sure, you’re unlikely to practice a new language while you’re traveling locally, but you will still learn something! Depending on the snowfall where you live, a road trip might not be possible, but you can still travel in the nearby area or by plane.

And because you know the country, you might have a better idea of what’s available to do in each location. Lots of universities have community service programs over winter intersession, and they are hosted in nearby communities or across the nation! If this sounds more up your alley than just planning a relaxing trip willy-nilly, then ask your student council if they offer any programs like this.

Job Shadowing

What? Who wants to work over winter break? That’s why it’s a break, right?

That’s true, and you can certainly spend the entire three or four weeks sleeping in and watching Netflix. If that sounds appealing to you, then this section might not be very useful to you. However, if you want to get ahead in your future career or just get a better idea of what you might be getting into, then consider interning for a company briefly or just shadowing one of their employees.

Now, obviously, not all companies offer these sorts of programs, so it’ll behoove you to call well ahead of winter break and set that up. Not only will this give you a definite plan, but it will also give the company some time to consider what to showcase. It’ll give you a great experience, and it will look stellar on your resume. Winter break might not be when you want to think about resume building, but the sooner you start thinking about it, the better. No one wants to submit only a few lines as a resume.

Winter break is the perfect time to relax, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t accomplish anything over those few weeks. Whether it’s discovering someplace new, helping out your community, or even gaining career experience, you shouldn’t waste the whole break. The only part of it— make sure to sleep in a little!

How to Look Fit for Break

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No one wants to go back for the holidays with the extra freshmen fifteen. While your mom might be too nice to say anything or your dad too oblivious to notice, you want to return from the break looking and feeling your best! On the other hand, it is the time to relax, not to suddenly pick up a fitness or diet regimen. It’s better to focus on that now, so by the time your family picks you up from the airport, you’re not hiding behind flowy shirts and heavy parkas.

Whether you’re worried about facing your family and friends or not, it’s never a bad idea to adopt some healthy habits. If you establish them beforehand, it’ll be easier to keep them during high-stress finals week and the temptation-filled holidays.

Look at the Dining Hall

Just because this is the stuff that the school is feeding you doesn’t mean that it’s the best for your health. The food that is served in the university dining hall probably covers a lot of ground — Asian, Tex-Mex, fast food, sub sandwiches, etc. Having such a wide range of options at your fingertips constantly can overwhelm even the strongest-willed person, especially if this is the first time you’ve ever been entirely in charge of your own diet.

Some university dining halls also have beverage machines. There’s nothing wrong with the occasional indulgence, but limitless soda is definitely bad for your health. Furthermore, just moderating your soda intake can help you lose weight. My dining hall even had a limitless milk dispenser, and even though milk is often touted as a nutrient-rich beverage, drinking more than a glass a day is concerning.

It can be tempting to just indulge in all the tasty food at the dining hall, but really examine every option before you eat it. The salad bar or sandwich station might seem like a healthy option until you see that all the dressings and meats are filled with fats and calories. This is where you can find some of your healthiest options, of course, but you need to be mindful of what ingredients you choose. Keep this in mind no matter what station you choose.

Prepare Ahead of Time

Okay, this is probably the most repeated advice ever, and also the least followed. Yes, we all know it’s easier if you plan out your meals ahead of time. Instead of scrounging for the cheapest meal in the dining hall, it’s better if you pack your own salad before leaving for class. But no college student has the time or the willpower for that, especially after a long night studying.

The trick is to prepare something that will last you a long time. That way, you only have to prep once and then you’ve got something to grab for the week. Things like breakfast pizza, a tray of lasagna, or any sort of pasta will keep in your fridge for a long time. Just watch your portions on these!

If you absolutely cannot bring yourself to prepare ahead of time, then there are on-the-go meals you can fall back on, but they’re not always the most satisfying. Don’t always rely on these, or you’ll end up in a food coma once you get back to your mom’s cooking.

Stay Active!

As the weather gets colder, you might be tempted to drive or take the bus to class, but it’s important to stay active. Walking or biking to class can help you offset the typical winter weight gain (which you WON’T have because you’re following these tips!). You’re also probably not moving around outside as much, so try to find some winter sports to participate in.

At the very least, hit your student rec center or local gym. Being active in the winter takes commitment; you can’t just wait around for the next ultimate frisbee tournament like at the beginning of the year. Plus, with more exam pressure, you’ll have to really want it to stick to your plan.

If you develop a consistent workout schedule now, it’ll be that much easier to stick to when you get home as well. Instead of wondering what happened to the fit high schooler they knew, your family will be impressed that you’re managing yourself so well! At that point, you can indulge a little bit in some festive foods, but don’t overdo it. You don’t want to go back to school looking different than when you left either!

Unique College Winter Break Trips in the U.S.

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We’re loving winter break. The last few weeks have been spent filling up on mom’s food, avoiding the recommended reading for next semester, and catching up with old friends. But now, we’re getting a little restless and we’re thinking a winter break trip is a must-do to spend our last few weeks off. These unique college winter break trips in the US are on our destination wishlist.

Nature and the Great Outdoors

No winter break trip list is complete unless you mention skis and snowboards. The weather is perfect for it, even if you just plan on riding the ski lift and sipping hot chocolate in outdoor lounges.

 

Where you should go: When we think of snow, we think of Colorado. Denver is both affordable, easy to get around, and full of ski slopes. If you need more adventure and have the money to drop, trade in typical Colorado for Alaska wilderness. You’ll get to see the world famous dog mushing while skiing during a moderately busy season.

 

Beach Reading and Swimming Pools

On the other hand, this list would also be pretty empty if we didn’t talk about the warm weather and sandy beach options. Much of America isn’t quite ready for swims in the ocean, but you can still warm your toes, soak up some sun, and save big on off-season prices at a few US hotspots.

 

Where you should go: Florida is perfect this time of year, especially Miami and Daytona Beach. It may not be that hot, but it’s still warm enough to pull out the beach chair at a resort. California coastlines are equally great, albeit a bit chillier. If you can afford to fly, make your way to Puerto Rico. You won’t need a passport, but you’ll still get that tropical paradise feel.

 

Museum Tours and Cultural Events

Who says you can’t get a little education on your winter break? You can take your days off to see the sights and experience what a big city has to offer for you. Luckily for you, if you’re heading to some major cities, you can get good deals on winter tourist passes so you can see more than one sight at a time.

 

Where you should go: New York is always top of the list, but you shouldn’t forget about Chicago where they have the top ranked art museum in the world or Washington D.C. where you can visit multiple US history museums at zero cost all year round.

 

A La Carte Paradises and Road Trips

You can get all of this and more from beaches to culture to the outdoors and more. You just have to do a little work and think out of the box when you’re looking for the perfect winter break trip spot. By staying away from top tourist cities or busy resort locations, you can have a unique experience.

 

Where you should go: New Orleans will give you great weather, fantastic art and city legends, along with loads of opportunities to see wildlife or take authentic boat trips. Texas too has island life, cities full of museums, and spas for a great massage or facial. All of it is within reach with a short flight or an epic road trip.

 

 

7 Emotions When Traveling Home For Winter Break

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OMG, guys, we did it! We survived finals week, an early start to winter weather, and horribly drafty dorm rooms to make it to this day — the day we traveling home from college. If you haven’t been home for some time, you’re probably feeling some pretty conflicting emotions. Have no fear! It’s all normal, and we’ve found just the right words to sum it all up.

 

1. “YASSSSSS!”

Easily, the first feeling that pops into our mind is just how excited we are to be hitting the road. There will be old friends to hang with, mom’s cooking to eat, and lots of time curled up in our own bed like old times. Just get us on the road already!

GIF via Mashable

 

 

2. “The Countdown is ON!”

Right along with excitement is anticipation. We’ve basically planned out every day of our vacation down to the hour. But with anticipation comes a little bit of fear of the unknown. What if we get stuck at the airport and miss the tree lighting we always go to? Will our holidays totally fall apart? The wait till our leave is really the worst part of this.

 

 

3. “I Will Make This Parka Fit In My Carry-On!”

We all know this, but there’s nothing like a two-week plus trip home to remind us how much traveling can really get to us. Even the most zen traveler would break down at the thought of going through a major airport during the holiday rush or hitting traffic during winter rush hours. And don’t get us started on packing! Our suitcase just keeps taunting us.

 

 

4. “No? Maybe? No?”

We occasionally complain about dorm life and we’re always feeling just a little bit homesick… so then why are we feeling a bit sad about leaving our college campus behind? Maybe our college roommate has grown on us or we’ll really miss the JELL-O in the cafeteria. Whatever it is, it’s really making us wish we would have booked our ticket home for a later date.

 

 

5. “I’m Not Looking Forward to Stepping on the Scale”

Between all the late night coffee with our high school BFFs and our parent’s cooking, we’ve probably packed it on. But do we have any regrets? No way! These winter break pounds are so worth all the love and joy we feel being with our family and friends again. Pass me another cookie!

GIF via Pluckers

 

6. “Wait… How Many Days Till the Next Semester?”

By the end of the first week, something has dawned on us — spring semester is just around the corner. That means we only have a few more weeks to buy our books, check our professor’s ratings, solidify our class/activity schedules, and map out the routes to our new classrooms. I thought this was supposed to be a break!

 

 

7. “I’m Leaving on a Jetplane…”

It always seems to creep up on us just at the right time when we start to really miss being on campus, but it’s here. It’s time to go back. Our parents seem more upset about it, but that’s okay. We are just looking forwards to what comes next… spring break!

 

How to Hit the Ground Running in January

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Let’s just start off with: you’re right.  You do deserve a break.  Well, you will, depending on whether you’ve finished your finals yet or not.  You might have believed that you were all caught up, but then you found out that your physics final is graded on a curve, so now you’re freaking out… Or maybe you knew these couple weeks would suck all along.  Either way, this is a particularly stressful period.

Unfortunately, you’re probably responding to that stress in a not-so-healthy way.  The cycle of staying up late and struggling to get out of bed for class, let alone the gym, has a way of perpetuating itself all the way until Holiday Break.  And while exercise is a great way to relieve stress and work off those study break snacks, let’s be honest: you’ve probably skipped a couple days at the gym.  Which isn’t so bad, but when coupled with the fact that lack of sleep makes you eat more and the upcoming holidays, December can be tough on your fitness goals.  It’s okay, you’ll pick it up again next semester, right?

That’s certainly possible, but you don’t want to a part of the New Year’s Resolution crowd that works out intermittently for a month and then are never seen at the rec center again.  It can be all too easy to put off starting a fitness regimen or to let it fall by the wayside.  So, while yes, you do deserve a break, you should also be prepared to start a new routine come next semester and stick to it.

What Do You Want to Improve?

The best workouts will involve your entire body, including flexibility, coordination, and strength.  By practicing a variety of skills, you’ll lower your risk of injury and maximize performance.  However, you can still focus on something specific that you’d like to improve.  If you don’t like your arms, can’t touch your toes, or would like to lose some weight after the holidays, you should cater to your fitness goals.  Just don’t neglect every other muscle group.

Write it Down!

It’s no secret anymore that writing down goals makes achieving them more likely.  It might feel stupid or childish, but it really does work.  Even if you’re self-conscious, you can write them down in a private place– just make sure that it’s somewhere you see frequently (a planner, a note taped in your closet, in your phone, etc.) That way, it will remind you of your goal and solidify your commitment.

Additionally, writing down your goals will force you to be specific.  You might think, “I want to gain muscle,” but when you start writing it down you realize that there are a lot of specifics to consider.  By when?  How much?  Are you willing to make the sacrifices necessary to reach your goal in time?  And, most importantly, is your goal realistic and healthy?

Account for Real Life

Realize that you’re not going to be perfect.  There’s going to be friends’ birthdays, emergency assignments, and other things that you can’t control.  You might miss a couple of workouts.  The important thing is that you don’t let that derail you overall.  You can also minimize the impact of these distractions by planning ahead.

  • Know the exact routine that you’re going to do at the gym so you don’t waste time in between machines.

  • If you have an early morning class, set out your clothes and backpack the night before, so you can minimize excuses to miss your morning workout.

  • Plan out your meals so that you can hold yourself accountable for your nutrition goals.  No more easy hamburgers in the dining hall when you’re rushing between classes or meetings, because you planned ahead!

  • Encourage your friends to join you.  That way,  you don’t have to choose between socializing and working out!

There’s going to be obstacles blocking every goal.  That’s why you haven’t completed it yet!  But with some careful planning and motivation, your New Year’s resolution can become an All-Year resolution.  For now, focus on your finals, enjoy the holidays, and come back next semester ready to achieve.

 

The Pros & Cons of Taking Winter Intersession Classes

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January Term. Winter Intersession. Third Semester. Break Classes. No matter what your university calls them, an ever-increasing number of students are eager to cut their holiday vacation short to go back to school. Whether it be to take a fun course like Intro to Guitar or to cover a class you couldn’t fit into your regular schedule, winter intersession classes have lots to offer. However, before you sign up, consider the pros and cons of taking winter intersession classes. You may find it’s exactly what you need or a bigger hassle than you expected.

Pros of Winter Break Classes

First off, you’ll get a class or two out of the way. Many schools limit how many courses you sign up for because the term is shorter and you’ll have longer classes, but even getting a small jump on your pre-reqs can go a long way. Mainly, it can make sure you graduate on time and reduce the amount of tuition you’ll need to pay or borrow for.

Some of the classes are travel-related. For example, you might be able to take a course on architecture in Italy, religion in India, or environmental engineering in Costa Rica. For those who cannot afford to or have time to commit to a semester or year long international education trip, this is the perfect middle ground opportunity and costs only a fraction of what you would pay to enroll overseas. Plus, it still has that vacation aspect to it!

For many universities, winter intersessions are more about fun and exploration than pre-reqs and travel. Professors teach elective classes that are meant to expand your mind or give you a chance to learn a new skill, rather than to be stuck in a classroom cramming a semester’s worth of biology in two or three weeks. You could immerse yourself in a new language, taking a world cooking class, or finally learn to use that digital camera you got ages ago.

Outside of class offerings, you’ll most likely be able to move back to the half-capacity dorms earlier, hang out with friends sooner, and enjoy less crowded, more personal classrooms. If you’re looking for that quaint, small college feel, now is your time to soak it all in!

Cons of Winter Half-Terms

On the flip side, it’s important to note that many schools treat these periods not as fun and games, but as a challenge to test how much you can learn and retain in a smaller time period. For those on a quarter system, you might be used to only a few weeks of a longer class, but for those attending semester schools, the shortened class can feel rushed and hard to keep up with.

You’ll have less time to complete papers, design presentations, visit research libraries, or study for exams. The classes are usually expanded from a few hours to practically an entire day so don’t count on downtime to get your work done either. And because of how quickly everything moves and because it is break, professors may not be around or have TAs available to review materials with you when you need help. The same goes for writing or math centers and tutors — the break means everything shuts down or becomes more limited.

That stress means it certainly isn’t that stress-free holiday you were hoping for. After getting through Finals week with just the skin of your teeth, you might want to take the break and relax at home with mom and dad. But if you pick the winter classes, you’ll be back to the drafty dorms, living on cafeteria food, and racking your brain over finals papers much faster than you’re ready.

Whether you choose to kick it with your family at your usual vacation spot or take on a class back at campus, it’s important to remember to find the balance that works for you and your college goals.

 

Perks of Christmas Break

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This year's tree! Putting up the tree is always my favorite part of the holidays.

We all know how it goes- you’re finally done with finals and couldn’t be more excited to be going home. Then no more than a week in, you’re bored of home already. It’s happened to the best of us!

Fortunately, there’s so much to look forward to over Christmas break that it’s so easy to fill up your schedule with friends, food, and fun!! So if you find yourself missing school on your time off, remember the following perks of Christmas break and take advantage!

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1.) See old friends!

Chances are it’s been a while since you’ve hung out with some of your friends from back home! Be sure to make time to catch up!

2.) Spend time with family!

You know they’ve missed you, and you know you’ve missed them! Spend some quality time before you head back to school for another semester.

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3.) Get some good food!

Let’s be honest with ourselves- the dining hall was getting pretty old. Enjoy some home cooked meals and stop by your favorite restaurant. Treat yourself!

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4.) Earn money!

If possible, Christmas break is a great time to get some hours in at work! As a “broke college student”, that’s as good an opportunity as any!

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[GIF Source]

How are you spending your Christmas break?

Happy Holidays, and a wonderful Christmas break to all!