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!

Top Places to Study Abroad in 2017

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One of the biggest and most rewarding adventures you can have as a college student is to study abroad. There are so many programs you can choose from like studying opera in Italy or politics in China. But with all those options, how do you find a destination that’s perfect for you? This list of the 7 best places to study abroad in 2017 will give you ideas of where you should book your flight to in the new year.

 

Barcelona, Spain

 

Ceiling, Cathedral, Sagrada Família, Barcelona

 

Romantic, charming, modern, and vibrant — Spain really has it all. However, what really makes Barcelona, in particular, shine is its eccentric and quirky architecture, multilingual citizens (most speak Spanish and Catalan, and many can speak English and French as well), and tasty food culture. Spend your days visiting historical sites and art galleries, and at night, treat yourself to a round of tapas!

 

San Jose, Costa Rica

 

Blue, Bright, Happy, Leaves, Palm Tree, Palm Trees

 

Nature lovers and natural science majors absolutely must visit Costa Rica at least once. It’s rainforest, ocean, and urban environments make it perfect for those studying engineering or development or take on a project such as constructing hurricane-safe homes or studying fish populations along one of its many beaches. Added bonus: the cost of living is low and flights are relatively inexpensive!

 

Cape Town, South Africa

 

Beautiful, Amazing, Stunning, Mountain, Night Views

 

Just like Costa Rica, in Cape Town you’ll experience a rugged landscape full of mountains and oceans as well as an urban oasis that’s both friendly and relatively safe to travelers. It’s an international hub which means you’ll get the opportunity to work and study next to students and professors from all over the world.

 

Sydney, Australia

 

Sydney, Australia, Panorama, Night, Evening, City

 

For those intimidated by learning another language or living in a country where English isn’t spoken widely, Australia is a perfect place. There’s so much focus on wildlife, indigenous culture, and marine studies that you’ll have a million of options to fit your major.

 

Tokyo, Japan

 

Boat, Cherry Blossom, Park, River, Spring, Tokyo

 

If your ideal place is an urban landscape, there is no better place to go than Tokyo. Ideal for business majors and those wanting to learn a valuable new language in a growing global economy, you’ll feel right at home with the millions of people who call Tokyo home

 

Buenos Aires, Argentina

 

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Obelisk, City, Capital, Street

 

With world-class music, art, fashion, and history, Buenos Aires is inspiring travelers and visitors from around the world. Because much of the city is influenced by Italian language and culture, you’ll feel very European without leaving the Western Hemisphere. And who doesn’t want to learn a little tango while dining on farm fresh steak?

 

Shanghai, China

 

Shanghai, Skyline, Architecture, Skyscrapers

 

Shanghai, the most populous city in the world, will completely change what your definition of “foreign.” From its street markets to its late-night scene, Shanghai boasts a culture completely its own. You’ll walk away with an understanding of the Eastern world and, hopefully, the use of Mandarin language which looks killer on many resumes these days.

 

The Basics of Studying Abroad

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Paris, London, Peru, South Africa — studying abroad during college can be your ticket to exploring the world. By deciding to take a semester, month, or year overseas, you not only gain the chance to change how you view your major, but you open yourself up to changing your life. Before you book your ticket, though, read on about some of the basics of going abroad for classes.

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  1. “Study Abroad” Varies By School

The term “study abroad” can mean one of a couple of things, and can apply to a myriad of programs. For example, it may be a formal educational program through your university or school in which you attend regular classes at a sister school in another country. On the other hand, it may be hosted by a private program in which your classroom may be a field experience – such as touring the architecture of Rome.

Leaning Tower of Pisa, Pisa, IT

  1. Consider Time & School Credit

That being said, it’s important to know what your program will entail when it comes to credits and time off.  Programs hosted through your school will most likely treat your study abroad as it would a regular class on campus. Private programs typically have an understanding with the universities it works with, in order to allow you the time off and to give you credit for your work. However, there are some programs out there not recognized by your campus which may require taking a leave of absence. In this case, you may want to opt for a summer program instead of a school year term.

  1. Choose Wisely

It can be difficult to pick the right study abroad program with so many options out there. That’s why it is best to treat it as you would picking out your classes at your own university. You most likely will want to find a program that is similar to your major or career goals and that provides you an immersion experience. On the other hand, if your priority is simply to get travel experience, a program that is just through a sister university may allow you the time to see the region or country independently.

 

  1. There’s Funding Out There

One of the biggest myths with study abroad is that you’ll pay more. Not (necessarily) true! Many university-sponsored programs come with some assistance or scholarship you may qualify for. This is especially true if your program has a special purpose, such as service-based programs, or you’re interested in a specific application of your major. Private study abroad programs may not offer you funding, but they may have more flexible payment terms, such as paying a deposit and then making monthly installments, all of which can lessen the financial blow.

 Tower Bridge, London, GB

  1. The ‘When’ Doesn’t Matter

One thing that keeps many students from applying to study abroad is the idea that they are too young or too old. But the truth is far more complicated. Study abroad programs can be great for any level of college student, whether you’re a second-semester freshman or a graduating senior. Your advisor will almost certainly need to sign off, but barring any significant academic issues, you are free to travel when you’re ready. Just look into the program and find out if it seems right for where you are academically.

While it may seem like a lot, study abroad can be one of the most rewarding experiences you can have as a college student. Seeing the world while studying with new peers, new professors, and new families can expand your world in ways you never thought possible. Now, the only question you should have is, “Where to?”

 

Thoughts On Studying Abroad

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It’s that time of year again! Open up your Facebook feed, and chances are you’ll probably scroll past countless posts of friends and peers jetting off to their chosen home for the next four months. Whichever part of the world they’re packing their bags to, they’re sure to discover a whole new side of themselves as they explore a country (or countries) brand new to them.

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Studying abroad is a dream and goal of many (if not most) college students. Maybe it’s required for their major, or maybe they grew up fantasizing about Paris or Rome. Either way, studying abroad is a great way for college students to get out and not only get the opportunity to take classes in another part of the world, but also to immerse themselves in another culture for an extended period of time.

Personally, I was required to study abroad for my major: Media Studies, Journalism & Digital Arts at St. Michael’s College in Colchester, Vermont. After some thinking and consideration of my own college experience, I came to a decision that a study tour, a shorter, more condensed, two-week trip as opposed to a semester-long program, would work better for me. (Cue tip number one: figure out what works for you. Study abroad should be something you look forward to, a learning experience that will come to shape your worldview. Disregard what your friends are doing, and even what the rest of your school may be doing. This is your experience, and it should be unique to you and your needs.)

Before I knew it, I was across the world in the Xinjiang province of China! (Cue tip number two: don’t be afraid to travel outside the box.)

A yurt we stayed in for a night on the Karakoram Highway.

A yurt we stayed in for a night on the Karakoram Highway.

Despite the stark culture shock that came with traveling through China, I came out of it with a view of a part of the world most Americans never see. Despite the challenges, changes of plans, and endless closeness with my group throughout the two weeks, I learned so much about myself and the concept of seeing the world.

Karakoram Highway

Karakoram Highway

That being said, I highly recommend studying abroad, however long you choose to. And even more importantly, I highly recommend diving headfirst into the culture, wherever you end up. Immerse yourself in as many experiences as possible, even if they may seem daunting, challenging, or unlike you. Now is the time not only to see other parts of the world, but to become a true citizen of the world as well.

This was probably my favorite part of the whole study tour: riding camels to our campsite in the Taklamakan Desert.

This was probably my favorite part of the whole study tour: riding camels to our campsite in the Taklamakan Desert.

 

Good luck, and have fun!

If you’re thinking about studying abroad, how will you create a full, life changing experience for yourself?

“Revised” Study Abroad Packing List

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With fall semester quickly approaching and my spring study abroad trip still on my mind, I thought I would put together a “revised” packing list for those of you getting ready to head abroad in a few weeks. Previously, I put together a packing and essentials list before I headed across the pond back in January. Now that I’ve returned from the experience, I wanted to make a few adjustments to my packing list and essentials based on what I found was really necessary compared to what I thought I needed before I left.

A Journal and/or Blog

For me it was super important that I documented my experience. Because I already had a blog, it allowed me a platform for my travel posts. Blogging about my travels was beneficial in a couple of ways: not only was I able to share everything easily with my family and friends, but I also have a collection of entries I can go back to and relive. If you don’t have a blog you can easily set one up at WordPress or Blogspot for free.

Along with the blog I think it’s really important to keep a journal as well. There were a lot of emotions, feelings, and opinions I had about certain things that happened that I didn’t want to share publicly on my blog. In my journal I could write down everything without having to worry about censoring it. The journal then becomes very personal, it recounts your true experience and raw stories.

If you don’t want to do both, at least do one or the other. You’re going to want to remember your time abroad and the best way to do that is by writing everything down.

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Photos from Home

When I got to my room, it was completely bare. I didn’t think to bring anything with me to put up as decorations. Thankfully my family sent me lots of cards so I was able to put those up to create a “homey” feel. When all the other girls brought photos from home and put them on their walls, I really wished I had brought some too! Keep in mind they are easy to travel with. Because a photo is flat, they don’t take up much space in your suitcase!

Camera

When traveling, it’s important to have a separate camera aside from your phone. Since cell service is spotty, there is almost no need to have a cell phone out at all. Depending on what type of camera you bring, it can produce better quality photos with more control over settings. I always had my camera hanging around my neck; it became a part of me. Now I have all these wonderful pictures to remember my travels by.

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Clothes for Layering

It can be difficult to know what to pack in terms of clothes. My best advice is to bring options that are good for layering. I found that while traveling you should be prepared for any type of weather. For example, we encountered an unexpected snow storm in Prague when it was mid April! My favorite layering piece during my travels happened to be an oversized denim button up. It was super comfy and still looked cute for photos, so it’s a win-win.

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Gum and Favorite Snacks from Home

Lastly, it is important to remember they don’t sell some of the same products abroad as they do in the States. Take gum for example…it’s just not the same over there! I went over with a lot of gum to begin with because I chew at least a piece a day. Eventually, I was starting to run out and I caved. I purchased a pack there and it was the worst decision I made…it was gross, horrible, repulsive! Definitely buy  gum to bring with you!

Also, if you like ranch dressing or peanut butter, you better bring that too. Commodities like these are hard to come by, and when you do, tend to be much more expensive.

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Those are some of the key things that I’d be sure to pack if I was heading back abroad! What will you be packing for your trip? Happy travels!

Cheers.

DIY Map Bulletin Board

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Since I just returned home from spending the semester studying abroad, I’ve collected a mass of things I picked up and held onto along the way. And because I’m such a map person, I brought a good handful of maps home with me from different cities in Europe and I wanted to do something with them.. This DIY will show you how to turn your maps into a bulletin board, like I did. Not only is this project easy,  but you only need a few things to put it all together.

MATERIALS

  • Any map or maps
  • Cork board (s)
  • Modge podge
  • Paint brush
  • Scissors & tape

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STEP ONE

I picked up two cork boards because I brought back a couple maps, so I chose my two favorite maps and started by tracing the cork board on the back of the map. You can use anything really to trace it out, just so long as you can see the outline afterwards. I happened to use a pretty much dried out marker because it was near by.

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STEP TWO

Now you cut out the piece of the map using the outline you made as a guide. I say as a guide because you don’t want to cut right along the outline, instead cut about 1-2 inches outside the outline. This way you will have excess to fold over the edge at the end. And, because you don’t have to worry about making the cut perfect it’s a quick and easy step.

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STEP THREE

Put your cut map to the side and  take your paint brush and use that to apply a layer of modge podge to the cork board. You don’t need to put that much on, just one layer will do. By the way, you can get modge podge from the local craft store and the ‘matte’ kind will work just fine. It works as both a glue and a sealer so it comes in handy for a lot of other DIYs.

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STEP FOUR

Center the map on the board centering and place it however you like. Once you press is down onto the board try to smooth out the map as much as possible, that way there aren’t any big creases. Depending on the map, you might not be able to get it perfectly smooth. You’ll see in my pictures the second map didn’t cooperate as well as the first one did.

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STEP FIVE

Now that the map has been placed down onto the board, apply another layer of modge podge over it. Don’t worry that the modge podge doesn’t go on clear, it will dry clear. This layer will seal it and ensure that map isn’t going anywhere.

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STEP SIX

After completion, give it overnight to dry and it should be all set! Fold over the excess paper and tape it to the back. I kind of folded it present style to get the corners to look nice. And, if you want, you could modge podge it but, I got lazy and the tape works just as well since it’s the back and no one will see it.

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And that’s it. It’s really pretty easy. I decided to decorate my boards with all my tickets from my travels so it serves a great reminder of all the things I did abroad and the memories I made. And, they are perfect to hang up in my room at school. There are a lot of things you can do with maps and this isn’t actually my first map related DIY, I have also done map letters and if you’re interested you can check out that post by clicking here.

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Cheers.

~meesh

7 Packing Tips for a Semester Abroad

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With your passport in hand and your itinerary set, get ready to head out for your semester abroad. While a great adventure awaits you, figuring out what to pack—and how to pack it—can be challenging. That’s why it’s important to pack smart using these seven pro packing tips.

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Tip 1: Study Where You’re Going

The biggest rookie traveler mistake is not doing the proper research on where you are headed. While it is easy to look up average weather and climates, do you know what it is really like to live in this new geographic location? For example, have you studied up on the little details such as if you will be walking on cobblestones (which may mean disaster if you have a suitcase full of high heels)?

Continue your research by reading past student experiences from your program or a similar program in your new region. Take note of important information such as if they unexpectedly needed a ton of rain gear or relied on walking to navigate their new city.

Tip 2: Make a Complete Shopping List

Some academic study abroad programs offer traveling students helpful shopping lists that give a good idea of the necessities. However, those whose programs don’t may want to create a complete, organized list of needed items before starting the process. Start by writing down everything and anything you may think you will need—including extra school supplies, an additional blanket, or backup batteries for your electronics. Once you have your list, use your research to pare it down. For example, if past travelers noted that their dorm room felt unsafe, pick up a suitcase lock.

Tip 3: Find the Perfect Travel Luggage

Your packing is only as good as the bags and cases in which you store your items. Your luggage should be extra-durable to travel over a variety of terrains and light enough to lift and carry easily when packed.

You should also note any luggage restrictions your airline or program may have. Some only allow two large bags of a certain weight and size. Failure to heed these restrictions may mean charges or fines.

Tip 4: Roll, Don’t Fold

Any packing pro will tell you the secret to saving space in your suitcase is the “roll” method. Simply lay your clothing out flat in a stack of several items (such as three pairs of jeans, ten t-shirts, or five or six dresses) and then roll tightly from the bottom up. Lay the rolls vertical instead of horizontal to conserve even more empty area in your suitcase.

Tip 5: Use Every Bit of Space

Your suitcase’s tiny pockets and unused inches are prime real estate when packing for a semester abroad. Wrap the rolled up clothing with scarves or other cold weather gear. You can even go as far as stuffing your socks and underwear in your shoes.

Tip 6: Forget the Purchasables

You may love your expensive shampoo or worry that your new country of residence will not have a supply of your favorite soap. But do not be tempted to pack these items unless absolutely necessary. Purchasable items such as razors, toiletries, and other personal items can be bought when you arrive and will help you cut down on bulk and weight in your luggage.

Tip 7: Avoid Stacking

If you’re a reader, or if you are required to purchase your textbooks in advance, you may have to consider just how to get these space wasters from one country to the next. Where most travelers go wrong is by placing books on top of books. This only creates heaviness that will make your bag harder to lug around an airport. Spread out your essential books in various bags instead, and even consider carrying on a book in your arm to save even more room in your handbag.

Packing to study abroad does not have to be a scary ordeal. By anticipating your needs, planning properly, and following some simple packing tricks of the trade, you can cut down on what isn’t necessary and focus on the essentials. With lighter suitcases in hand, you’ll be ready to bring back great souvenirs and even better memories.

What are some of your packing tips for students traveling abroad? Share your best packing secrets in the comments section below!

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