Are you a snow bunny who's tired of the same old runs down the same old slopes in the USA? Well you're in luck! Winter programs are a great option for students who fear sitting around at home during the holidays or being a bump on a log. If you want to take advantage of your precious downtime from school, you're not going to find any adventures in your local Tastee Freeze in your old stomping grounds. Why not strike off the conventional path and seek a short-term study abroad program between your awesome fall semester and bound-to-be-awesome spring semester? Choose a j-term program, perhaps?
Whether or not you identify as a hardcore skier/snowboarder or prefer to hang out in the lodge with a tall cup of hot cocoa, there's a study abroad program for you. And that is completely discounting the folks who are seeking warmer weather during the harsh winter months back home (yes! you can study abroad in the southern hemisphere and yes! it is hot hot hot). Pack your bags and study abroad over your winter break. You won't regret it!
Your best bet for finding the perfect winter study abroad program is to identify early on what you want to accomplish abroad. Do you want an intensive language program, or an opportunity for cultural immersion? Would you prefer to see as many places as possible to get a better feel for a region versus a single city or country?
No matter your goal, there's a program for you. Here are some of the most popular types of study abroad programs offered during winter break:
Faculty Led: Talk your favorite professor into hosting a study abroad program for students on your campus! If you ask early on, you may find out there are already a number of these types of short-term programs available to students at your school. These programs are convenient, as you will have an ease of transferring credit and financial aid to pay for your program. You'll also meet people from your school while traveling (its fun to have friends on campus to reminisce with once you return!).
Third Party Provider Programs: If your school doesn't offer any programs that make you feel excited about traveling abroad, then hit the 'net (::cough:: look to the right column of this page ::cough::). There are bunches of "third party provider" study abroad programs (such as AIFS, ISA, or CIEE) that organize courses over the winter season. Your on campus study abroad advisor will be a great resource for more info on these programs.
Language Immersion Programs: Kick your foreign language skills up a notch by doing an intensive language program abroad. You can easily test out of the next level after completing one of these courses. Consolidate a semester of learning Spanish in the USA by learning immersion Spanish in Spain (or Argentina...or Ecuador...or Mexico... or anywhere!). What's more, you'll get to enjoy all the fun that comes with living abroad, and increased cultural understandings of a new country. Awesome!
Take advantage of the time of year to experience some truly unique cultural events abroad, or... ski season! Take these suggestions as you will!
Spring Festival, China
Um, you have not seen a fireworks show until you have experienced all that is Chinese New Year while living in China. Learn to make dumplings with your homestay family (and feel no shame when you scarf down a dozen!), light firecrackers (pow pow pow!), and if you're lucky, get a hongbao (red envelope stuffed with kuai!) from friends. It is a wonderful holiday to experience firsthand!
Experience a familiar holiday in an entirely new setting. I've always had my eye on Germany, as the Christkindl markets look beautiful, and who are we kidding - it would be fun to sing O Tannenbaum! Add on a snowy, romantic background and a warm mug of mulled wine and you're good to go. With its central European location, it could also be a great hub for ski adventures in Austria, Italy, France, or Switzerland!
The Beaches of Australia
Who says that winter study abroad has to be about soaking up all things traditionally cold and blustery? Blow a little dust off your swimsuit, your surf board, your snorkeling gear, your sun screen, your beach towel... and hit the coast. Australia has about 12930812 different beaches to choose from, so you shouldn't have a hard time finding a study abroad program there!
Warning: studying abroad in a warm location may lead to some serious envy as your friends and family face the dead of winter.
D'oh! Just when you were starting to think that study abroad is this perfect, wonderful thing you reach the check out aisle. Don't worry about the overall costs of your program - you'll just need to get creative and money savvy. Apply for scholarships (here's a list of study abroad grants and scholarships to kickstart your research), do some fundraising, and get a job (or 2!).
Study abroad will be unlike anything that you have experienced so far as a student. You will have the opportunity to experience an entirely new academic system and the chance to take courses that might not be offered on your home campus.