Winter break, depending on the university, can last from one to two months. Typically, students who live in dorms must leave the dorm after their last final exam and return close to the start of the second semester or quarter. If a student does not have the option of going home, he or she could stay with a friend’s family, a friend who lives off of campus, youth hostel, or stay at a long term hotel. It is very unusual for people to stay in a hotel instead of going home during winter break because the cost of a hotel over that amount of time would probably be equivalent to a plane ticket.
Spring break is usually a week long and the precise dates depend on which university you attend. Students who live in dorms typically have the option of staying in the dorm over break but do not have access to the dining halls. This is the case for the university I attend; the University of Colorado, Boulder. Spring break usually occurs a few weeks before final exams. Some students choose to spend spring break as a “catch up” week in order to get caught up in their classes or start preparing for final exams.
While some students go to Cancun, the Caribbean, or other tropical vacation spots, many students cannot afford such a trip. There are many affordable options and opportunities to keep busy during spring break. Some vacation ideas for students who cannot afford extravagant getaways include: a road trip with friends, camping, be a local tourist and explore parts of town you would not have time to see during the semester. If transportation by car is not an option, most universities give bus passes to students granting them access to many distant locations unreachable without a vehicle. Approximately twenty-five percent of students chose to stay in dormitories over spring break because summer, a much longer break, is just a few weeks after spring break and students typically go home for summer unless they take summer classes or choose to have an internship or work over the summer and live in off-campus housing.
A popular choice for students over breaks at my university is a program called Alternative Breaks. Many American universities have similar programs. Alternative Breaks provides opportunities for students to learn about social and environmental justice issued faced by members of diverse communities through education, direct service, and reflection. The program sends teams of college students to engage in community-based service projects during each college break. Students become immersed in new environments enabling them to experience, discuss, and understand social and environmental issues in a significant way. Ultimately, the goal of the program is moving students toward action to make a positive impact in their own communities by giving students leadership skills.
Some of your professors may even provide opportunities for you over breaks. For example, one of my professors from last semester is taking students to spend a day at the oldest Spanish settlement in Colorado to do community service. Volunteers from all over Colorado come to dredge a central irrigation ditch in preparation for the new agricultural season. The group of students she is taking will camp at the Sand Dunes before the day of community service.