Whether you're a student-athlete or a pre-med student, sometimes the only way to fit in a study abroad experience is to take advantage of universities' long winter breaks.

With a J-term (or January term or winter session) study abroad program, you can squeeze in a 2 - 4 week long study abroad program. Depending on which one you choose, you might even be able to get a course credit for it.

Looking for other winter study abroad options?

If you opt to study abroad in January, you will most likely not be able to enroll directly into a foreign university. It’s hard to enroll in a local class only for a month when the classes are designed for a full semester. Because of this difficulty, there are two popular program designs for J-Terms.

Typically, students will use a third-party provider (like API or ISV) to go on a study abroad trip or sign up for a program organized by their university (and typically hosted by a professor on staff).

Either way, your program could have an educational travel angle, where you'll visit multiple destinations and learn about a common connecting theme in each, a language component, or you'll be based in a single destination for the entirety of the program.

Forget your typical winter break where you spend a month lounging around at home, catching up on that much needed sleep after a rigorous fall semester. Instead, pack your suitcase and head abroad for 2-4 weeks in any of the following areas:

Central and Eastern Europe

What better way to spend your holidays abroad than traveling to what is often claimed as the most festive area in the world? Warm wine or hot chocolate in hand, spend a couple weeks studying abroad in Germany, Austria, Hungary, or the Czech Republic while learning about European history and intensive language studies. The snow-covered Christmas markets will make you feel like you've traveled back in time.

Western Europe

Gain international business experience in London, Italy, France, or Spain for a few weeks between your academic semesters, and learn about the importance of a global mindset. You'll also be able to enhance your language skills by learning the regional jargon for specific work-related terminology.

Australia or New Zealand

Escape the cold next winter and head down under for a few weeks over your winter break. While in Australia or New Zealand, you can enroll in a J-Term program that focuses on the environmental programs, while exploring the ocean or the mountains.

Middle East and North Africa

Spend up to 4 weeks in Israel or Morocco while studying religious studies and language while immersing yourself in some of the most historical regions of the world.

North and Central America

You don't have to head too far from home to get a truly immersive experience. Popular destinations for J-Term programs in this region of the world include business short term apprenticeships in NYC, and environmental field work programs in Mexico, Guatemala, or Belize.

China and Japan

Practice your Mandarin or Japanese in an intensive language setting for 2-4 weeks over winter break, through a combination of classroom and short term internship and volunteer experiences. While here, make sure to tour some of the world's oldest shrines, admire the art, and try as much street food as possible.

South and Southeast Asia

Students with an interest in healthcare and public health can head to Thailand, Vietnam, or India for a few weeks over winter break to gain hands on experience in the field through volunteerism.

South America

Become truly immersed in South America over J-Term by practicing Portuguese in Brazil, Spanish in Chile, Argentina, or Peru, or exploring the vast biodiversity in the Galapagos.

When to Apply

Application deadlines for J-Term programs are usually between September and October, and there's a lot you need to do in order to make sure your application is the strongest it can be.

The application process usually involves submitting a letter of intent, one or two letters of recommendations from professors, copies of your passport that will be valid for six or more months after your departure date from the program, your official academic transcript from the registrar, and often times some short answer questions on the application itself. We recommend starting this process in mid to late summer to make sure you have everything in on time.

Academic Credit

Depending on your university, you might be eligible to receive credit hours towards your degree while studying abroad on a J-term program. Before heading abroad, make sure to consult your academic advisor and study abroad office to see if there's a possible course equivalency.


Your passport must be valid for at least six months after your intended departure date from the J-Term program. In order to meet your application deadline, you may need to expedite a new passport through the post office.


Before going abroad, make sure to call all of your banks to notify them that you'll be abroad in your program country, and give them specific dates so that they don't freeze your cards.


Packing will vary depending on where in the world your J-Term program is. Generally though, it's best to pack light and bring just a few of the essentials that you find you can mix and match easily, with layers. For a 2-4 week program, it's fine to pack a week or two worth of outfits that aren't noticeably patterned, a pair of walking shoes, and a pair of dressier shoes. Here's a list of electrical plugs by country, so you can charge your phone, laptop, and camera.


Before going abroad, speak with your phone provider about freezing your plan while you're away, so that you can save money. Most phones come with universal SIM cards, so if needed, you could just get a prepaid plan abroad if you want.

Contributed by Danielle Ortiz-Geis

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