Just picture it: the snow is melting, the mid-terms are ending, the desire to trade in your hot coffee for a cold toddy is becoming almost unbearable. You’re swapping your winter boots for your sandals and digging your favorite spring coat out of the back of your closet. While sticking around at home to discover how your March Madness bracket prevails sounds tempting, you already know you don’t want to waste your precious spring break doing the same ol’ same ol. So why not have the adventure of a lifetime and study abroad during your spring break, instead?
Why Study Abroad During Spring Break
It’s not too late to sign up for an alternative spring break in 2016. Many universities and colleges sponsor different international activities for students to participate in during spring break. Not only will you be able to travel with your closest friends and classmates, but you’ll earn college credit AND collect some shiny, new stamps in your freshly minted passport.
Deciding to study or volunteer abroad during spring break is a relatively low-risk commitment too. Instead of packing your bags for a semester or summer abroad (or more), you will only be away from your teddy bear (er, comforts from home) for a week or two. Leaving home can be very scary and overwhelming, and testing the waters with a short trip like an alternative spring break is a good way to get a feel for travel without overdoing it.
Spring break can be a time to goof off and imbibe with your friends. But that’s so old school, and let’s be honest, do you really need to wake up full of regret from another night spent at the bar? Instead, choose to spend your time helping others or seeing beautiful new parts of the world.
Spring Break Study Abroad Programs
There are a variety of spring break study abroad programs you can choose from. While you can opt to do a spring break program through your university, there are also plenty of other ways to make your spring break more meaningful abroad. Some of the most popular ones include:
Volunteering Abroad. Many volunteer organizations abroad are in need of extra hands to contribute to ongoing projects for their respective causes. Even with only one to two weeks, college students can have a positive impact on others during a spring break volunteer trip. Popular spring break volunteer projects include construction, teaching English, and conservation. Choose a cause that you’re passionate about, sign up for a program, and do some good for the people of the world!
Intensive Language Courses. If you are interested in speaking a foreign language (or already have one or two under your belt), you might settle on traveling to a country that speaks your second language natively. You can sign up for an intensive language course for spring break, do a homestay with a local family, and return home with more to show for your travels than a silly souvenir cup. Many college students study Spanish, French, or Italian abroad on their spring breaks.
Eco-Adventure Travel. If you want your spring break to be heavy on the adventure side, you might opt to sign up for a spring break travel program for young adults. Nothing wrong with being a college tourist! The exciting part about partaking in an adventure travel program abroad is you can whitewater raft, scuba dive, or trek safely alongside other spring breakers like yourself.
Before deciding what type of alternative spring break you’re ready to sign up for, identify your goals and motivators for traveling abroad over spring break. Is it just to have a good time? Awesome! Are you wanting to give back and help others? Superb! Do you want to capitalize on the opportunity by learning something destination-specific? Fantastic! Once you know the “why” behind the “what,” your decision making process will be extremely easy.
Spring Break Travel Tips & Advice
If you want to maximize your spring break study abroad experience and make the most of your alternative spring break, you must be prepared and plan ahead. Beyond researching your destination and committing some of the local language to memory, here are some other hyper-relevant tips to keep in mind:
- Paying for it - You might have just put a deposit down for one of the most expensive weeks of your young life thus far, but don’t freak out! An alternative spring break is an investment. Plan ahead for fixed costs, like flights, visas, etc., early on; get a job, ask for money in lieu of holiday presents, or start an online fundraiser. Work hard to save extra for unexpected adventures and souvenirs!
- Packing - Since you’ll only be gone for seven to 14 days, consider purchasing a decent over the shoulder travel pack between 30 to 50 liters in size. This should be more than enough room for you to pack your necessities (and a few extras), while still saving room for mementos.
- Fighting jetlag - In order to hit the ground running and not waste a minute of your spring break abroad, begin the process of dealing with jetlag before you travel. Change your watch to the local time in your final destination and modify your daily routine one to two days before your flight to minimize jet lag once you land.
- Popular locations - Ultimately, you should choose the destination that calls out to you. But given the short and sweet time you’ll have abroad, we suggest choosing somewhere you can get to fairly quickly, either on a direct flight from your nearest hub or on one that is less than eight hours. Try to stick to nearby time zones if you want to avoid the potential jetlag prob all together. Many American college students choose Mexico, Costa Rica, England, Italy, or Spain for their spring break travels.
- Do work, son! Just because you’re halfway around the world doesn’t mean your responsibilities as a student cease. Plan ahead for your (more than likely) lack of time/motivation/interest when you have to return to school and spend time doing your assigned coursework while traveling. Complete assignments due after spring break prior to your travels if possible. Bring along your reading homework for the long haul flights. Stay on top of it!
It is important that spring break travelers are intentional with their time abroad, especially considering how brief the trip will be!
Benefits & Challenges
Studying abroad during your spring break has more benefits than Taylor Swift has followers. You will get an introduction to fabulous world cultures, learn more about yourself and your passions, and get a taste of the life aquatic (er, abroad) in a short amount of time. Don’t be surprised if you gain loads of confidence and start planning your next trip abroad before your spring break trip is even over.
Perhaps even more importantly, one benefit of studying abroad during spring break means you won’t be stuck sitting in your boring hometown eating Panda Express while half-heartedly skimming Netflix options on your couch (again).
While it is possible to earn college credit for your travels, it is not guaranteed. The possibility varies significantly from university to university. Our best advice is to start the conversation ASAP with your academic advisor to learn the steps necessary to secure course credit for your spring break travels.
So, what are you waiting for, Johnny gun-shy?! Start packing your bags, saving your money, and preparing for a week of more Snapchatting than normal.