The Bea-UD of Winter Break

Every college student can't wait for winter break, right? Wrong.

The exception is if you go to the University of Delaware, and you stay home for all of winter break. That's right, all of winter break. That's up to seven weeks. Seven weeks. Of the many learning experiences I had freshman year, staying at home during UD's "Winter Session" was definitely one of them.

First semester freshman year still seems like a blur to me. I was getting to know my roommate, figuring out what crowd I wanted to hang around, and adapting to being in the classroom for only half the time I was in high school. By the time Thanksgiving came around, I was ecstatic to see my family and familiar friends back in the comfort of my own house and own town. Then I came back, took my finals, and went back home. For seven weeks.

I hadn't really thought it through. I was going to be home for the holidays like everybody else. But suddenly, my friends disappeared, my sister had homework again, and my parents went back to work. And I was still home. Making my way through every Netflix show imaginable. Questions like, "Should I get an internship?" and "Should I take classes?" didn't even cross my mind... until I got back to school on Feb. 10 and told myself, "Never again."

As a freshman, I would never have thought of an extended winter break as an advantage. But now after studying abroad in Spain last winter, and preparing for a month in Washington, DC this year, I realize the unique opportunities that I can have the chance to experience.

I quickly learned that the most popular time for UD students to study abroad is the winter. I decided that traveling to Spain on a 5-week trip, intended for Political Science majors like myself, would kill four birds with one stone: I would complete required classes, be exposed to new cultures, participate in my extracurricular activities for all eight semesters during which I was enrolled at UD, and not become stir-crazy at home. I am both thrilled and grateful to say that studying abroad during the winter of 2014 accomplished just that. I gained an enormous amount of independence and insight into European culture, while lightening my course load for the future and staying occupied for the almost two months I was given off of school.

Now, I am looking forward to spending the month of January in Washington, DC, through a program that is organized by the same office at UD as the study abroad trips. I will participate in an internship, hear and meet speakers from various political science, communication, and law backgrounds, tour famous sites, and of course, apply my networking skills to the best of my ability. While Washington is no Europe, this winter I am so excited to be exploring potential career options, especially since I won't have to worry about carrying a full course load at the same time.

There are more options to keep UD students like myself occupied during Winter Session, such as conducting research or taking classes on campus, or making money at a job at home. But realizing and seeking out these opportunities takes initiative, initiative that I had very little of but have certainly developed since my freshman year. Practically two free months available to a college student in the middle of the year can be both a blessing and a curse. It is challenging to research the options and ultimately take advantage of them, but I know now that it is well worth it.