by Karis Hustad, Sophomore, Loyola University Chicago
Congratulations all you collegiates out there! You are now one college semester older, experienced and (hopefully) wiser. After barely surviving the cold coffee and ramen fueled Finals Week, you can finally not feel guilty for sleeping and enjoy the stress-free bliss of winter break.
During the holiday season college students can all be thankful for the one gift winter break is guaranteed to give: time. But this "time" is really a blessing and a curse, depending on how you use it. Yes, I absolutely believe Jersey Shore reruns and three hour naps are necessary to a full mental rehabilitation, but I also believe that a month of no obligations, no homework and no one screaming outside your window at 2 a.m. is an opportunity to do all those things that have been pushed to the side throughout the semester.
So I have compiled a list of activities that are on my winter break to do list as well as things I wished I had been able to do while swamped with work these last few months. If you're interested in getting more out of your break than a stomachache from too many christmas cookies and a deepened understanding of the chemistry between the lead characters of "True Blood", read on.
- Do some life planning: Though this sounds daunting (mostly because life is a little daunting) taking some time to do a little planning now will make you a lot less stressed in the future. Research an internship you want over the summer, figure out if you have connections with someone working in the field you would like to go into and network with them over coffee or look up a volunteer program you may want to take a semester to work on. Though the future seems far away, college unfortunately lasts only four years, so use winter break to plan out how you'll make the most of it.
- Catch up on current events: Attention college students! There is a world outside of finals week. Find it. Whether its reading the paper every day (don't pretend like you don't have the time) or looking through BBC.com or perhaps even taking 24-hour cable news coverage literally and sitting through a day of TV news (that last suggestion could result in insanity), try to get informed on what is going on outside campus.
- Conquer some type of social media: I know what you're going to tell me you Bio-nerd, you. You don't need social media, you are going into the sciences, you only communicate through test-tubes and lab rats. But here's the thing: if you can show a future employer that you can professionally communicate (whether through a blog or a twitter account) they are likely to smile, shake your hand and say "You got the job." Just sayin' (also just tweeted that).
- Watch (good) movies: Movies can be a source of entertainment and education. I'm not saying break out the Schoolhouse Rock, but I am saying skip "A Cinderella Story" in lieu of something a little more challenging. Two riveting documentaries I would highly suggest would be "The Cove" and "Food Inc." You'll never look at dolphins or soybeans the same again.
- Cook (good) food: I'll be the first to admit that leftover thai food heated up in a toaster oven is an acceptable meal, but only when there are a million other things to do and a low budget for food. So take some time this break to try a new recipe and eat meals that require preparation outside of a microwave. Next semester when you've eaten Spaghett-O's for three meals in a row at least you'll be able to think back to the delicious meals you enjoyed this week.
- Look for scholarships: College is expensive, but you don't need me to tell you that. Whether you are footing the bill yourself or your parents are chipping in, continually applying for scholarships make the load a little easier on every one. Always keep big sites like FastWeb on hand, but another strategy is to call local businesses to see if they have any education fund set up. Often local places will have smaller scholarships, but a lot less competition and simpler application procedures.
- Manage your involvement: Just as you can switch your major, you can also change up your involvement. Maybe being on the break dancing team was fun for this semester, but you'd really like to get more into environmental groups- do it! Don't get stuck in an activity just because you feel obligated to be there. And remember, ChiU is always looking for contributors...
- Do something fun in your hometown: Whether you live in the smallest town in the Heartland or the biggest city on the West coast, there is always something you probably haven't tried. Winter festivals, a new restaurant, a park waiting to be explored or a hokey tourist attraction you've always turned your nose up at are waiting to become another reason you will always love where you're from. It also makes a way better "What did you do over break" story than an afternoon of facebook/TV/napping.
- Go on a road trip to visit friends: Do you have a friend stuck at their college town over break? Though I haven't experienced mine yet, the first holiday spent alone or without family has got to suck. So why not bring the holiday spirit to them and have a little fun on your own? Grab your friends, a mode of transportation and a game of Twister (or whatever you kids do for fun these days) and bring the winter break reunion to them.
- Read a book: After stumbling through agonizingly thick textbooks and Shakespeare barely written in understandable English, remind your brain that reading doesn't always mean literature not written for you to understand. Whether its a classic, a new best seller or even a romance novel (only the classy ones with Fabio on the cover though) try to get through at least one book this break. Reading helps your comprehension of other literature and also makes you look really cool when you understand the references your Intro to Fiction prof makes.
Do you have any suggestions for what to do over break? Do you particularly like/dislike any of the items on this to do list? Do you just really want to go on the awesome ski trip pictured above? Let us know! Comment and ChiU will comment back.