If the idea of being away from home over summer gives you extreme FOMO, consider studying abroad in winter instead. When the last festival is over and the last beach bonfire put out, pack up your best winter jacket and your sense of adventure, and set off for the study abroad experience of a lifetime. Studying abroad in the winter means making the most out of your whole year, instead of hibernating for half of it. After all, what better way to beat the winter blues than traveling somewhere new and awesome?
Why Choose Winter Study Abroad
#Wanderlust isn’t usually attached to photos of cold, rain-drenched cities. The winter season spreads lots of bugs, but the travel-bug generally isn’t one of them. Before you start googling study abroad programs in the Caribbean, consider all the possible benefits of studying abroad in the winter.
In the darkest depths of the winter months, large chunks of your time are probably spent hunkering down in a blanket-cave and waiting for the season to pass. Winter study abroad could be the nudge you need to crawl out from under the covers, and remind yourself what being a student is all about (hint: learning stuff, new adventures, new friends).
Studying abroad during the winter is also the ideal opportunity to discover a different side of the country you travel to. Outside of the summer tourist season, you will see the raw, pared down version of the city where you are based, and get to revel in that coveted “authentic” local travel experience.
And just in case you are still thinking about that Caribbean Google search, you can rest assured that there are dozens of winter study abroad programs (or should we say escapes) in perennially warm, conveniently beachside locations.
If you are looking for a location to study abroad in the winter, you might feel a little snowed in with all the options. There are, after all, quite a few countries on this little planet of ours.
In the world’s most populous country, you are never truly going to escape the crowds, but you can escape tourists. As the low season, winter is the ideal time to visit China and all its wonders. Studying in China in the winter, you will give you the chance to become truly absorbed in a culture that is vastly different and wholly unique from your own.
Canada knows winter. If there is anywhere that is going to convince you that winter can be fun, it’s Canada. With winter sports that you have never heard of before (curling, anyone?) and powder that can make grown snowboarders weep, Canada in the cold season is a playground of ice and snow that would make Queen Elsa proud.
Eating is one of the best ways to cope with winter (we need all the extra calories to keep warm of course). This makes Italy a strong contender for the title of “Best Place to Hide Out for Winter.” Nothing will warm your heart and soul like a proper Italian pizza. Winter really doesn’t feel so chilly when you get to spend it “Under the Tuscan Sun”.
Spain is the quintessential study abroad destination, for any season. Between siestas and fiestas, Spaniards know how to live the good life, and they will be more than happy to show you how it’s done. The myriad colors and flavors that make Spain such a lively and vibrant destination spring eternal, and can’t be dulled even by winter.
Costa Rica is almost everyone’s idea of paradise. Volcanoes, hot springs, rainforests, and waterfalls, all existing in a state of perpetual summer; Costa Rica has it all, including a plethora of winter study abroad programs. Students looking to hide from Jack Frost need look no further. With the warm weather and plentiful adventure opportunities, outdoorsy types won’t have to worry about their vitamin D intake in Costa Rica.
Winter Study Abroad Programs
There are as many winter study abroad programs as there are snowflakes in a blizzard (well, maybe not quite as many, but you get the idea). Sift through the drifts of information and eventually you will find the perfect match.
Many winter study abroad programs last for two-three week stints in January. This means they are long enough to satisfy your appetite for travel, yet short enough that wherever you are will still be enchantingly cold, instead of just cold. These shorter term study abroad programs usually allow you to earn two or three credits for a hyper-specialized course, like Russian Ballet or Water Systems in China.
Unless you specifically want to study another language, you will have no trouble finding winter study abroad programs and courses taught in English. As a wise man once pointed out, though, the limits of your language are the limits of your world. Push your limits, and explore the option of intensively studying a foreign language over the winter semester. Getting the hang of the local lingo will help you get so much more out of your study abroad experience.
Tips & Advice for Winter Travel
Winter can be tough. Watching your skin get paler by the day and putting on so many clothes you look like the Michelin man every time you step outside probably won’t do anything to improve your Netflix and hibernate urges.
Studying abroad in winter, while the weather might still be the same, the scenery will be totally different. Winter study abroad programs are made for students with itchy feet. As they slot in well with most degree programs, you can tick off some of those amazing travel experiences you have been dreaming of, while never missing a beat with school (and without missing summer with your friends).
The key to making the most of your winter study abroad experience is to embrace all of the benefits the cold weather brings. Think Christmas markets, mulled wine, cozy bars, and warm, melty things like cheese fondue.
One of the best parts about winter is that it is almost universally the low season for tourism. This means that there is no better time to take short breaks from your study abroad program. Seize the weekend, and leap at the opportunity to travel when hostels are empty and dorm beds are at their cheapest. Never mind that you’ll also be earning credits while traveling. Win-win-win-win-win!
One last piece of advice: If you do opt for the Caribbean escape, try not to post too many photos of cocktails and palm-fringed beaches on social media. You may run the risk of losing all of your friends at home.
Benefits & Challenges
Studying abroad in the winter is equivalent to investing in yourself. You will see so many returns in happiness, experience, and education once you have finally made the decision to get up and go. As an international student studying abroad in winter, you will have the chance to discover a different culture, from a unique point of view. Instead of just ploughing through your degree, you will have the opportunity to push your boundaries, try new things, and possibly even learn how to ski. Studying abroad is the ideal marriage of travel and education aspirations. By the time the mercury starts rising, you will be happy in the knowledge that you have made the most of wintertime.
Of course, studying abroad, especially in the winter, can bring with it a whole host of challenges and hurdles that you don’t even think about at home. Different climate, different culture, different language; it can sometimes feel like an uphill battle trying to cope with all of this while getting your assignments in on time. In those moments, all you need to do is stop, look around, and remember where you are, to get the magic back.
Studying abroad involves more than just learning about the subject you enroll in. It’s about learning that absolutes are always variable, and what you thought you knew for sure is completely subjective to perspective. Study abroad in winter, for example, and you will learn that the coldest season can also be the season that leaves you with the warmest fuzzies, the fondest memories, and the most poignant experiences.