Chasing Summer: 7 Ways to Spend Winter Break Abroad

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Winter might be setting in, but don’t be swapping your sunnies and flip flops for a full-body onesie and fur ushanka-hat just yet. When the weather gets colder there’s only one direction you should be headed: south. That’s right, let me introduce you to the strange phenomena that is experiencing summer during winter, aka winter break abroad in the Southern hemisphere!

Not only will short term programs abroad, even 2 week study abroad programs, get you off the couch and away from binge-watching Elf, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and other seasonal viewing staples, these programs are the perfect way of escaping the long, cold days in the Northern hemisphere. Instead of making the focus of your vacation the number of s’mores you can consume in one sitting, act smart by embarking on a winter break study abroad adventure, embody the spirit of Christmas giving as a winter break volunteer abroad, or be kind to your resume with winter internships abroad.

Close-up of a kangaroo in Australia
Get up close and personal with your fave furry friends during winter break study abroad in Australia.

Bring on the sunshine as we run you through the best places to travel in December and January, for those of you that want to escape those otherwise unavoidable winter blues.

Soak up some sunshine with winter break study abroad

Can’t cope with huddling up to the fire in your pj's a second longer? Winter break study abroad programs in the southern hemisphere should be top of your Christmas list. If you’re always busy during summer break, see winter as the new opportune time for a short international study experience, but first get some tips on how to separate epic short term programs from average ones.

1. Study Animal Science & Biology in Australia with Frontier

The sun’s a guaranteed scorcher for winter break study abroad in Australia and the unique animals and even more singular salutations make this huge country one of the best places to travel in January. Join a winter study abroad program and snorkel through reefs or become best friends with all of Australia’s critters—cute or otherwise—through a conservation service project.

Coastline view of Cape Reinge, New Zealand
Ditch the snow and the cold for the sun, the surf, and the sand with winter break study abroad programs in New Zealand.

2. Explore the Oceans in New Zealand with Seamester

New Zealand’s not far behind when it comes to the sunniest shores for winter break study abroad programs. Circumnavigate the oceans of this enchanting country as you learn about humans’ impact on the oceans with a semester at sea (note: sea legs are not included). Paradise is sailing through marine ecosystems, mangroves and coastal reefs as you learn to protect these precious habitats or laying out on deck beneath a clear blue sky as you mimic a happy, snoozing puppy.

3. Learn About Environmental Conservation in Ecuador with AIFS

The Galapagos Islands need little introduction – yeah, you know, that Ecuadorian archipelago with the huge population of animals, where Darwin had his eureka moment. And for those with a keen interest in environmental science, few locations around the world have quite the allure of these famed islands. Expect to hang out with Galapagos tortoises or encourage a lounging sea lion off your deck chair as you savor winter break study abroad programs in one of the globe’s most magnificent and unique ecosystems.

Sea lion on a rock in Ecuador
With a winter break abroad in Ecuador, all the history and critters of the Galapagos are yours to discover.

Up your professional game (and your tan) with winter internships abroad

Your mum’s probably been shouting at you to get off the couch for the last three weeks, so what better way to keep her sweet (and your employment chances sweeter) than with winter internships abroad?

Vibrant Buenos Aires and undiscovered Bolivia are just a few of the best places to travel in December, not to mention great options to have up your winter-woolen sleeve that present exciting opportunities to make your mark. You’ll no doubt come away with a jealousy-inducing profusion of new skills to wow your college classmates after completing an internship during your winter break abroad.

4. Learn the Tricks of the Trade with a Journalism Internship in Argentina

If you’ve ever dreamed of being a hack, now’s your chance with a journalism internship in the Paris of South America: Buenos Aires. A city of stately plazas and sultry tango, interning abroad in one of the continent’s most vibrant cities is a guaranteed way of getting your creative juices flowing (and your feet tapping). Winter internships abroad with newspapers and magazines will keep your pen busy during the week as you fall head over heels with life and culture in Argentina, while hot, gloriously sunny summer spent drinking yerba maté with your new amigos in one of the city’s green spaces will be enough to have you seriously questioning your flight back north.

Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires, Argentina
In a city that rarely sleeps, you’ll have plenty to cover with winter internships abroad at a local magazine.

5. Change the World with a Chagas Research Program in Bolivia with CFHI

Medical students: find yourself on the way to one of the most intriguing winter internships abroad by electing to study in the small southern Bolivian city of Tarija. Work with an epidemiological program to halt the spread of Chagas (a sometimes deadly infection that is carried by over 70 percent of the Bolivian population) in a country where research and health care is vital, but still limited, particularly in rural areas.

Set in southern Bolivia, one of the best places to travel in December, where the climate is a perfect antidote to cold, miserable days in the northern hemisphere. This winter internship grants easy access to the country’s epic highlights (yes, salt plains of El Salar de Uyuni, we’re looking at you) while gaining exciting medical experience in one of the continent’s least-visited countries.

Discover the planet and do some good as a winter break volunteer abroad 

For the altruistic souls out there, volunteering is not only an unrivalled way of developing personal and academic skills, but a way of getting underneath a country’s skin. An added bonus is that  warm weather and do-gooding can go hand in hand with winter break volunteer abroad programs in the southern hemisphere.

Some of our top selections are in Central America, where the dry season makes this hot and humid region one of the best places to travel in January, while Africa entices with opportunities to make a tangible difference on a culturally distinctive – and drop dead gorgeous – island

Two bolivian children outside their home
Aspiring Dr. Grey’s should seek out winter internships in Bolivia, working with rural populations to provide health care assistance.

6. Explore Culture & Communities Throughout Central America with Frontier

Don’t know which Central American country inspires the most wanderlust and desire to lend a helping hand? Don’t worry, visit them all (well, a hearty slice of them). With the ethical trail volunteering program, you can learn to surf in Acapulco, México, see the sunrise over ancient Mayan ruins in Guatemala, and work in Honduras for the real bread and butter of the trip – volunteering in educational projects in the local community of San Pedro Sula.

Central America is exactly the best place to travel in December or January as glorious sunshine – and a respite from the tropical rains - make these fascinating, colourful countries sparkle at their finest.

7. Volunteer as a Teaching Assistant in Tanzania with Kaya Responsible Travel

Home to some of Africa’s best coral beaches, Zanzibar appears an island paradise like no other. But, the reality of life amongst the shimmering, white-powder sands and the Indio-Arabic architecture is one of poverty and a lack of qualified teachers for the rural inhabitants of the island.

Here’s where you come in: live on the glorious shores of this archipelago teaching English to both adults and children in remote schools. Not only can you watch as your support encourages young girls and women to attend school, but you can learn about the epic history of Omani sultans and the traditional lives of the fishermen along the coast, all of which make up the captivating patchwork of culture on this island.

Sprawling landscape in Mexico
Take your winter break to volunteer abroad in Central America, starting with Acapulco, Mexico, where palm trees sway idyllically in the breeze.

Please: someone help me off the couch, NOW! 

Two months of trashy TV and enough helpings of turkey to keep you groaning from overindulgence for the rest of the year might seem the ideal way to spend winter break right now, but believe us: your resume and your waistline will both be thanking you if you put your holiday season to good use.

Compare short term programs abroad using the MyGoAbroad and let reading the reviews of previous participants serve as enough inspiration to get you out the comfy hole you’ve dug for yourself in the living room, and on your way to the most exciting winter break abroad you’ve ever had.

Can't quite travel yet? Check out these summer work abroad programs