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!

Post Christmas Break

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You’ve just had a glorious month off from school – sleeping in, seeing friends, eating home-cooked meals – basically living as royalty. However, you’ve also just made the trek back to school (wherever that may be), and reality has just started to hit full force.

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There’s snow on the ground, a bitter chill in the air, new classes, new expenses, new stresses. But fortunately, it only takes a couple days of adjustment, some positive thinking, and a few helpful tips to keep in the back of your mind to get back into the swing of things!

Get some extra z’s!

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Sometimes getting a full night’s sleep on those first few nights in a different bed can be a challenge. Try tucking in a little earlier than your usual time to ensure that you’re getting as much rest as possible. That way, you’ve prepare your mind and body for the first days of the semester!

Stay organized!

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There’s nothing more important through syllabus week than keeping track of assignments (even if you’re just reading Chapter One), those first couple of club meetings, etc! You’re on a brand new schedule and routine now, and it can be easy to let something slip your mind if it’s not what you’re used to yet. Stay on the safe side with your planner and pen on hand at all times.

Lean on your friends!

Homesickness can get the best of us, even when we least expect it! In these times, it’s important to remember that your friends are there for you at your home away from home. Take advantage of your light workload in that first week or so of classes, and make time to do something fun together!

 

Good luck, and happy spring semester!

5 Favorite Christmas Desserts to Impress Your Family

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The struggle to come up with Christmas food ideas is real, especially if you’re not a seasoned chef.  And if you’re looking to impress, it’s easy to get way over your head with desserts in particular. However, there are some very simple Christmas favorites that will get your family saying “yum” with just a few ingredients and steps. Here are our top five faves.

1.   Eggnog Fudge

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Combining two holiday favorites, you’ll love this Christmas-only treat.

Ingredients:

  • 1½ cups white sugar
  • 1 stick butter
  • ¾ cup eggnog
  • 13 oz. package white chocolate chips
  • ½ tsp. nutmeg
  • 8 oz. jar marshmallow cream

 

How to Make:

  1. In a medium saucepan on medium heat, boil the sugar, butter, and eggnog together. Stir frequently for 8-10 minutes after boil starts.
  2. Remove from heat and stir in white chocolate chips, nutmeg, and marshmallow cream until well blended and chocolate is melted.
  3. Pour in small pan lined with parchment paper.
  4. Cool at room temperature and then cut into squares or large pieces.

 

2.   Mint Cookies

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Cookies are expected, but when you don’t have an oven to work with, you can still make something deliciously Christmas.

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. baking chocolate
  • 3 drops of peppermint extract (found in spice aisle)
  • 1 package Ritz crackers

 

How to Make:

  1. Melt chocolate in microwave and stir in extract.
  2. Make rows of Ritz crackers on baking sheet covered in parchment paper.
  3. Cover and spread chocolate on Ritz crackers and refrigerate for 1-3 hours.

 

3.   Christmas Chocolate Bark

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Who doesn’t love chocolate? Triple the punch with three different kinds in one serving.

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. bittersweet chocolate
  • 8 oz. semisweet chocolate
  • 8 oz. white chocolate
  • 2-3 candy canes, crushed

 

How to Make:

  1. Chop chocolate very finely and separate into individual bowls.
  2. Melt bittersweet chocolate using a microwave safe bowl and pour and spread onto a small, rectangular pan or dish lined with parchment paper.
  3. Cool for 15 minutes in the freezer.
  4. Repeat steps for semisweet and white chocolate by making new layers on top of the one before it and freezing each time so it does not run.
  5. While white chocolate is still warm, sprinkle crushed candy canes on top.

 

4.   Christmas Cake Balls

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Cake balls are all the rage, but you don’t need a fancy maker. Create them the easy way with this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 package of cake mix (your choice)
  • Red or green frosting
  • Holiday-themed sprinkles

 

How to Make:

  1. Prepare cake mix by directions on box.
  2. Crumble warm cake in a bowl until soft again and form into balls using a melon baller, cookie scoop, or your hands.
  3. Warm frosting in microwave until somewhat runny. Drop in cake balls and cover. Use a fork to transfer onto a plate or cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
  4. Cool in the fridge for 2-4 hours or until frosting is hard.
  5. Add sprinkles.

 

5.   Nutella Cheesecake

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Nutella is great all year round, but cheesecake is especially amazing during the holidays. This recipe is almost too easy to be true!

Ingredients:

  • 2 packages cream cheese
  • 1¼ cup white sugar
  • 13 oz. jar of Nutella
  • 1 crust of your choice (chocolate graham cracker is recommended)

 

How to Make:

  1. Beat cream cheese and sugar till mixed.
  2. Use a blender to stir in Nutella.
  3. Pour and spread evenly onto crust.
  4. Cover and refrigerate for at least 5 hours.

 

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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How are you spending your Christmas break?

Happy Holidays, and a wonderful Christmas break to all!