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Making the most of winter break

After the intense storm that is finals week has passed and the semester comes to a close, it can be tempting to spend the entire winter break sleeping in and watching television. While relaxing is important and enjoyable, there are other things that you can do during winter break that are far more engaging. Some students work, others do research and some even use the time to travel abroad.

“The break was very long compared to high school,” said Keren Herran, a sophomore majoring in individualized study with a focus on global health and environmental factors. “I wanted to do something enjoyable and productive.” Last winter, she studied art and culture in Rome through the American Institute of Foreign Studies. Herran said one of the most enjoyable parts of the experience was being able to “learn about a monument in lecture and then walk outside to see the actual monument.”

That type of experience can be very difficult to fit into the academic year because longer sessions cost more money and can disrupt your progression through your major. However, the experiences offered during the winter sessions are more affordable because the term is significantly shorter. Fundraising opportunities and study-abroad scholarships make it possible for anyone to study abroad.

Studying abroad may not be the best option for everyone, but that does not mean you cannot participate in an engaging experience during winter break. Assefa Akinwole, a junior chemistry major, spent his winter break doing research on campus. “The winter was nice because I got time to just consistently work on a project and develop a greater appreciation and understanding for it,” he said.

During the academic year, students have to balance classes, clubs and research, but during the winter break that time and effort can be dedicated solely to research. That type of commitment looks great to graduate school admissions boards.

If studying abroad and doing research are not for you, there are still many ways to spend winter break. A 2015 study from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce found that over 70% of undergraduate students have worked while attending school. It never hurts to have extra spending money, especially during the holidays.

At UMBC, there is also the option of enrolling in winter classes. Instead of overloading your schedule during the academic year, use the winter to take the required classes, or extra ones that you find interesting. This can help you stay on track for graduating in four years or even early. Even if you cannot come to campus during the winter session, there are a plethora of online classes to choose from.

It may sound counter-productive to spend a break doing extra work, but in the long run it can pay off. Whether that means having an extra edge when applying to graduate schools, an extra experience when you are applying for a job or even just an extra story to share with your friends, taking full advantage of the six week break can be a great decision.