Stay, or Get Away? The American Education Tradition of Spring Break

SpringBreak_03252015Spring break – a much-welcomed week off from school for American students – is coming soon. For American students, the break offers a chance to vacation with friends or visit family. For international students, spring break is a new experience.

Sehr Jamil Aslam, a student at Georgetown University, faces her first spring break this year. In Aslam’s home of Pakistan, there is no such thing as spring break; instead of having a spring break, Pakistan’s higher education system has a shorter spring semester than a semester in the US, which usually starts in January and ends in April or May.

While Aslam is excited for her first spring break experience, she can’t decide what she is going to do. While most students go home during the spring break, it is too short a time for her to return to her home country.

“I don’t want to go back to my country during spring break,” she said. “If I go back home, I have to take a plane for eighteen hours. Also, I might get jet-leg. “

So, many international students – including Aslam – decide to stay at their school during the break. Even though they’re not traveling, these students can use the time to take a break from homework and exams during the semester. Others prepare to study for the rest of the semester.

“It will be great time to take a rest in the middle of semester,” Aslam said. “I want to prepare for the rest of my semester’s work.”

Other foreign students take a more traditional approach and find a vacation destination for spring break. A lot of international students want to visit another city in the U.S. or go to another country nearby the U.S., which can give them new experiences outside of class room.

“I am going on a cruise in Florida with my friends,” said Jian Sun, a student at Georgetown University. “The spring break is a great opportunity to travel in the U.S. because I am really busy with studying during the semester.”

According to U.S. News & World Report, some of the most popular destinations for spring break include: South Padre Island, Texas; Cancun, Mexico; and the Bahamas – three places considered top vacation destinations for many international students.

Volunteers“I am planning to go to somewhere nearby the U.S. too if I have enough time,” said Jian Sun.

Another way to spend the spring break is to find volunteer opportunities.  Since school facilities are closed during the break, some school offices prepare special events for students. Emory University provides a volunteer program in which its students have an opportunity to volunteer internationally, regionally and locally.

No matter what they do, international students have an opportunity to experience a unique part of the American education system. Just make sure to plan ahead in order to maximize your spring break time – in fact, you might already want to start thinking about spring break for next year!

Jeonghyun Kim is a VOA intern for the English web desk. She is from South Korea, and is currently pursuing her Masters in Professional Studies in Journalism at Georgetown University.

Jeonghyun Kim