Winter breaks are great: family, friends, holidays, and maybe more quality time to binge watch your favorite show on Netflix. But if you are feeling wanderlust and looking for a change of pace, you should definitely consider these options for spending breaks away from home.
1. Alternative Winter Breaks
A lot of colleges have fun alternative break programs that allow students to get involved in their local or non-local communities. These programs usually focus on community engagement through short-term service projects. Recently, popular themes have been financial literacy, LGBTQ+ rights, bilingual education, and girls/women in entrepreneurship. The projects are funded by the school or by the group of students who plan to take part in them and led by experienced student leaders. By choosing alternative breaks, you not only get a meaningful community service experience but also connect with other students who have similar passions as you (and they happen to go to your school too!).
If you start to look more into alternative breaks, you’ll find that many of them are during spring break. However, some schools do have fun programs during winter breaks that you can get involved with.
2. Volunteering Abroad
Organizations like AIESEC connect college students with volunteer and internship opportunities abroad. You can easily find opportunities in your area of interest by contacting student or program leaders of those organizations at your college. You can also find reliable programs from NGOs like Projects Abroad, ISV, and International Volunteers HQ. These organizations are by no means the only useful resources, and you can certainly find more opportunities elsewhere. Volunteering experiences abroad really challenges you to step out of your comfort zone and immerse yourself in a different environment. I really enjoyed my experience as a renovation volunteer in Cambodia. Many of my friends who’ve been a part of volunteer or intern abroad programs, such as ones in West Africa, Southeast Asia and more, have thoroughly enjoyed and learned from their experiences. Unfortunately, there aren’t many financial aid options for volunteering abroad program, so you should be prepare for travel and other additional costs that you may incur. However, you usually receive accommodations, insurance and stipends when you commit to a service program abroad.
3. Study Abroad
Study abroad programs during winter breaks have been increasingly popular among college students. Although business and liberal arts majors are provided with more study abroad programs, you should still be able to find programs of your interest/major at your school. Most schools have really generous scholarships and financial aid for specific majors and fields (you’d surprised how many there are!), so you should make sure to hunt them down and complete applications before deadlines, especially if you applied for larger, more competitive programs. You can also find really great study abroad programs through non-school-affiliated organizations like Semester at Sea. These programs offer a greater variety of study abroad options for students with unique interests.
Financial aid might be a little more complicated if you decide to study abroad with an organization outside of your school but it isn’t impossible. I suggest setting up an appointment with your academic advisor to discuss your financial responsibilities.