Planning Your End-of-Year Holiday as an International Student in the US

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Beware the weather

Need some ideas for what to do during your winter break? Read on for a few suggestions from our contributor, Steffen.

The holidays are coming guys! Have you planned your end-of-year holiday? Reflecting from my experience, there are many ways to spend your holiday if you are studying abroad. Now, let me give you some insights!

If you are an undergraduate or graduate student in the US, you do not have to worry as you are almost guaranteed a holiday at the end of the year. The good news is that this holiday usually lasts for at least two weeks for students!

In the US, this holiday holiday is usually preceded by a period of exams for your fall semester (August – December). Having the exams right before the holiday is certainly better compared to having it after the holiday (no one wants to study during the holiday anyway). In the US, you can finish your exam, throw your college books away (this is just an idiom, do not actually do it), and pack your holiday luggage!

Where to go? Now this is an interesting question. During my studies, I made a classification of the students based on their preference in spending the winter holiday. This classification can be your reference in planning your holiday in advance.

Go to a warmer region

Many students like to spend their holiday in a warmer area, especially for students from North America and Europe. The choice ranges from Miami, California, to Cancun in Mexico. Going to countries outside the US needs special attention, why? Most American or European students do not need visas to go to countries such as Mexico or Costa Rica, thus they can conveniently arrange their travel there. For students from Indonesia like us, we will probably need to apply for visas to travel to these countries. So, if you wish to travel to Cancun, for instance, make sure you have your visa prepared by applying for it at either a Mexican Embassy or Consulate

For me, going to a warmer region is not preferable. I can experience the summer any time of the year in Indonesia; it is winter that I want to experience. But, no pressure! Just decide freely!

Spend the holidays in another “winter state”

The US has many of these so-called winter states. You can experience the winter in most states along the East Coast and Northern US. The winter varies across these states, though. Those who experience heavy winters are usually the states with ski resorts such as Vermont, Minnesota, or Virginia. If you wish to travel to a ski resort, please make reservations in advance. If you make a reservation just few weeks before the end of the year, you will either fail to get a reservation or need to spend a lot more money. Please be aware though, the ski resort will be packed with people bustling around in the skiing area during this time of the year. You need to be extra careful if you are an amateur and renting a ski instructor might be a good idea.

Another way to spend the holidays in winter states is by just visiting the cities and enjoying your time there. I visited New York City (NYC) as I wanted to experience the famous Christmas atmosphere in NYC (period from Christmas to New Year). It was really nice; NYC was covered with a little bit of snow and I could find really nice Christmas decorations in every corner of NYC for free! You can also ice skate in Central Park or just buy hot chocolate and enjoy the vibes.

People skating
People skating
Rockefeller Christmas Tree
Rockefeller Christmas Tree

Here’s a special tip if you want to watch the Times Square Ball Drop on New Year’s Eve. Please be prepared to join thousands of other people who have the same idea. The government will provide some designated areas such lanes, visitors’ tracks, and some standing spots. By 6pm, you will have difficulties finding good spots for yourself to watch the ball drop, so make sure you are fully prepared for that kind of congestion.  

Just chill in your apartment

If you do not have any particular plans for the holidays, do not worry, you are not alone. Many international students, in fact, prefer not to go anywhere and just enjoy their apartment and their town. During the holidays, there will be less people in the area around you (except if you are living in the big cities such as NYC). You can have a relaxing time for yourself. Moreover, as there are less people, you can also visit some attractions around you without long queues and crowds. It is going to be a good time for you!

Going home

If you miss your family back home and want to spend your end-of-year holiday in your hometown, this is probably going to be your best choice. Make sure to reserve the tickets in advance to get a cheaper price. The cheapest ticket prices can generally be found three months before the holiday period.

Whichever plan that you take for holidays this year, I just want to say,

happy holiday folks!

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Steffen Hadi
Steffen Hadi studied LL.M. in University of Pennsylvania Law School and Wharton Business and Law Certificate of the Wharton School at the same university. He was the Class President of Penn Law LL.M. Class 2016, Penn Law Students Representative in University of Pennsylvania’s council, and international associate editor in Penn Law Journal of International Law. Steffen also interned at a prominent international law firm in Philadelphia. Aside from LL.M. Steffen also holds a Sarjana Hukum (LL.B. equivalent) from Parahyangan Catholic University. Steffen has been practicing law as a corporate lawyer in Jakarta and Singapore. Presently, he is a senior associate in a prominent law firm in Indonesia and independently assisting few legal issues for start-ups. In his spare time, Steffen is a movie freak, loyal runner, and outdoor trekker.