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Top 10 ways to make the most of winter break

As we make our way toward the holiday season, start thinking about the exciting things you’ll have time to do in the coming weeks.

As we finish our last lap in this home stretch toward a well-earned break, now is the time to start thinking ahead to what you want the end of 2023 and the beginning of 2024 to look like.
As we finish our last lap in this home stretch toward a well-earned break, now is the time to start thinking ahead to what you want the end of 2023 and the beginning of 2024 to look like.

With Lighting of the Lawn in the rearview and the first days of exams ramping up, we are certainly winding down on a whirlwind semester. As we finish our last lap in this home stretch toward a well-earned break, now is the time to start thinking ahead to what you want the end of 2023 and the beginning of 2024 to look like. Whether you’re seeking excitement or want to keep it low-key, here are a few ideas for how to spend this winter break. 

1. Binge, binge, binge that must-watch show

If you’re like me, you probably have a show that you desperately want to watch — or rewatch — but can’t commit to during the semester. I feel you. I personally can’t wait to watch the new season of The Great British Baking Show and return to some Ted Lasso episodes. Now that we have about a month at our hands, winter break is the perfect time to watch whatever murder mystery, sci-fi thriller or romantic comedy that’s been lurking in the back of your mind. Whether you space it out or spend back-to-back hours binging — I’m guilty there — take some time to unwind, flop down in your coziest spot with some popcorn and press play. 

2. Catch some z’s

We’ve been working nonstop all semester long. After running on adrenaline and pick-me-up snacks to push through this finals season, I believe some rest, relaxation and restoration is in order. Wherever you spend this winter break, give yourself more sleep than the less-than-eight-hours I’m positive most of us are getting now. Hit snooze without remorse and sleep in — it’s the prime time to forget about waking up early. For me, with no more 9 a.m.’s to wake up for, I don’t plan on setting many alarms this holiday season.

3. Sizzle up some good grub

I know we’ll all dearly miss Newcomb, O’Hill and Runk this winter break, but trust me — we will find a way to persevere. This holiday season hit the kitchen and cook or bake your favorite foods. Find yourself an oven, stove, skillet or whatever kitchen surface or appliance you need to make some feel-good food, whether that be family recipes or exploring new cuisine. From rotisserie chicken to chocolate chip pumpkin bread — which is my favorite to bake as a warm treat in winter — I’m ready to keep myself well-fed this winter break.

4. Catch up with pals from home

While we love the people we surround ourselves with here at the University, there are likely a few special folks back home who you haven’t caught up with in a while. This holiday season, reconnect with some old friends or colleagues and maybe spend some time chatting over a meal. Order some starters for the table — pretzel bites and cheesy garlic bread are a must — and start dishing on life. Catch up with what’s been happening in their lives and tell them about your semester, ranging from your favorite classes to the best event you went to this fall — mine were Global Sustainability and Democracy 360, respectively. I’m looking forward to reconnecting with some former project managers from my summer internship, and hearing about how their projects have progressed and what’s to come in 2024.

5. Get away and explore

Unless you’re studying abroad over this winter break, you’ll likely be in the same house for about a month. While staying in can bring much-needed restoration, it’s important to get out for a day or weekend trip, if able. This winter, I’m hoping to get away by spending a day in New York to see a Broadway show or downtown Philadelphia to revisit historic colonial sites, like Independence Hall and Betsy Ross’ house. Getting away doesn’t mean you have to travel far, as exploring close to home is also lots of fun and can be eye-opening — by getting out in my hometown, I recently discovered that I live less than five minutes from the Moland House, which served as George Washington’s headquarters for part of the Revolutionary War. 

6. Start researching summer opportunities

I know it’s not fun or easy to be super productive over break, but it’s important to spend at least a little time checking off some boxes this holiday season. One of the best ways students can get some work done is by thinking about the upcoming summer. Many job and internship positions for summer 2024 are already open, so now is the time to spruce up the ol’ resume on Handshake, connect with faculty through the Career Center, and check out what summer opportunities exist near where you want to be this summer. For me, I’ll be looking for the perfect science and technology policy internship in Washington D.C.

7. Spend time with family

If winter break is bringing you home this year, make sure to carve out some time to be with family. No matter if you have to listen to your grandparents' same stories or eye-rolling dad jokes, enjoy the company of your family while you have the time to spend with them and without lots of schoolwork filling up your schedule. Watch a movie or go out to dinner with the family and indulge in their tomfoolery. Let yourself be embraced by those who love you this winter break. I can’t wait to spend time with my family navigating Barcelona, Spain this holiday season.

8. Volunteer in your community

The holidays are a time when many people are in need. This winter break, get out in your local community and volunteer — help out at a food bank, deliver food, or find a way to help those around you in a way that resonates with you. If you’re staying in Charlottesville this winter break, consider volunteering with organizations like the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank or The Salvation Army. A few years back, I volunteered at my community’s “Santa House” — a must-do for many of the kids — by serving as an “elf”. Donning my elf ensemble with pointy ears and all, I helped to spread good cheer in my community and put smiles on children’s faces.

9. Reflect on the year that was

No, I won’t ask you to make New Year’s resolutions here. Although it sounds trite, taking some time to think back on the best parts of your year is a great way to trek your way forward in the new year. Look back on what you're proud of from 2023 and your happiest moments from the year. Relish in your favorite memories from the year by making a photo album or journaling about them. I’ll likely be thinking back to seeing the awesome Virginia Belles concert this fall, taking with me the importance of swapping the piles of work for unique musical events — which bring me a lot of joy as someone who loves music — every now and then.

10. Do what you love

That’s it. This winter break, whether at home or in Charlottesville, just be and indulge in what makes you happy and helps you decompress. Leave the schedule wide open to be in your bliss. Whether that be curling up with a good book, watching Virginia basketball games or going for walks, prioritize yourself this holiday season and enjoy. I’m planning on getting wrapped up in a new spy novel, snapping gorgeous shots on my family trip to Spain and taking some nice long walks in the parks near me back home.

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