Probably the most important benefit of studying abroad is that you are traveling- you’ve left home to go to a new place and meet different people. The drawback of that is that for the local people you’ve met, the place isn’t new, and they probably want to travel as much as you do. And spring break is a great time for them to do that. If you are staying with a host family, you may be traveling with them, but if you are living in a dorm, you may be stuck in a ghost town for a week (depending on your budget).
But this isn’t a wasted week. There is a lot you can do, and, in a way, the time that you spend will be at the heart of your study abroad experience. You’ll be filling your own time, and you can use it to learn about yourself and make new friends, or become close with old ones. The brief respite in the school year can give you freedom to do things you might not be able to do while balancing school and social expectations. Here are some ideas to make your week a fun and productive one.
First off, check with the international office
There’s a good chance your school has anticipated this situation, particularly if they have a large international student body. Check with them to see if they have any ideas or trips planned for the students. There’s a good chance that they have something planned for you to see the area- either overnight or as day trips. This is a great time to leave the campus, when you have time to actually explore the region or some of the major urban centers you’re near.
But if the office doesn’t have anything planned, or if there isn’t something you want to do, there are a lot of ways to enjoy the the extra time.
After a long winter, you may want to stretch your legs, and take in deep breaths of fresh air. One of the best ways of doing this is on a camping trip- spending a couple of nights outdoors, sitting around a campfire, seeing the awe-inspiring natural beauty of this vast country. Nearly every state and federal park has campgrounds, and it is fairly easy to find one near you. Make an adventure of it and see if you can travel to a natural National Landmark, wild and beautiful areas federally designated to be preserved forever.
Not much of a camper? Not sure what to do? Don’t worry about it- camping isn’t that difficult. You just need to bring the essentials, food that you want, and a sense of adventure. Most state parks aren’t going to present any difficult for camping- they generally have designated areas with fire pits dug out. You won’t have to hack your way through the jungle primeval. It’s all set up for a weekend of s’mores and ghost stories.
Other short trips
Okay, so maybe camping still isn’t your thing. There are a lot of short trips you can take that incorporate nature and nicer traveling. Anywhere in this country, but particularly New England, you are close to cities and incredible natural areas. You can travel to the coast to see the waves crash against the ancient craggy shores, explore bike paths, or make a trip into town to see the sites, drink in the clatter and excitement of the urban environment, and maybe even do some shopping.
Gain an edge among your classmates
By this I don’t mean homework (though I am certainly not encouraging you not to get ahead on schoolwork). Like I said, during the school year you are swamped, without much extra time to do things. So here is your chance- see if there are any new restaurants, stores, or art exhibits in town. You’ll be the first of your classmates to write a Yelp review on them. Or find out what the hot new books are going to be that everyone will be dying to read this summer. You’ll be like a pioneer, discovering the new Katniss.
A little self-improvement
Have you ever wanted to learn pottery? Woodworking? How to sew, play golf, or fix a car? What is the secret thing you’ve always wanted to excel at? Is it cooking or juggling? We all have those little talents we’re desirous to perfect, but feel we don’t have the time. If you are dedicated, you can learn a new skill this week. These can range from the fun to the super-practical. You can even learn to code in a week. Your friends will come back with sunburns; you’ll have a new life skill.
Remember, you’re not alone
This isn’t a solitary journey, or it doesn’t have to be (it can be if you want; America has always had a special place for the solitary thinker). There are going to be other people who are stuck at home, or in the area. This can be a great chance to better know your fellow international students, most of whom are in the same situation as you. And not all of your classmates will be traveling, either. Teenage years are often a mix of ambition and boredom; it is a universal condition. Your American classmates who are left behind will be feeling the same pangs of frustration at having a whole week stretching out before them like the desert sands. But you can help them make the most of the week- seeing new things, having new experiences, and learning fun and valuable skills together. Far from being a week to simply get through, spring break without travel could be one of the most important, enjoyable, and rewarding weeks of your entire school year.
The international student experience is both challenging and exciting. Whether you are a student considering studying in America, their parent, the host family, the Head of School, an international coordinator, or even a potential classmate, there are as many opportunities for confusion as there are to learn. The ISPA is here to help bridge that gap, to ensure that this opportunity and adventure is met with the highest level of success.