Why more UMD students are choosing to spend winter abroad

By Jamie Weissman
Senior staff writer

Every year, the University of Maryland sends a number of students around the world for a semester of travel and study. However, not all students can fit the adventure into their academic schedules. Enter winter terms abroad, an option a growing number of students are choosing.

“They’re really wonderful, academic experiences unique to Maryland where students can really use the world as their classroom,” education abroad adviser Conrad Zeutenhorst said.

Hannah Chi and a friend in Pucon, Chile, on a winter break. Photo courtesy of Hannah Chi

Hannah Chi and a friend in Pucon, Chile, on a winter break. Photo courtesy of Hannah Chi

Sophomore government and politics major Hannah Chi knows firsthand about using the world as her classroom. In December 2014, she traveled to Chile for a three-week stay during which she went to Santiago, Valparaiso and Pucon to study Chilean literature and social democracy. Chi visited historical buildings and painted a school for young children, a highlight of her trip.

“I kind of feel like within three weeks I really did fall in love with the country and the people so that was most memorable for me,” she said.

For Chi, who is graduating a year early, a winter term was the only option to fit studying abroad into her schedule.

“It’s definitely worth it,” Chi said. “If someone … has room to study abroad for the whole semester I would say that’s a great opportunity as well, but getting to go to a country for three weeks … you’re still going to get so much out of it even in just three weeks.”

Recent statistics show between 60 and 70 percent of the students going abroad each year are participating in faculty-led short-term programs, whether it be winter or summer, said Zeutenhorst. The rest, he said, are going on semester-long programs. Although he does not know the exact reason, he said he believes it is because it is more convenient for some students to be away for less time.

Sophomore Allison Herskovitz, enrolled in letters and sciences, said she considers a full semester abroad too long. Instead, she is going on a faculty-led program to Rome this winter to study art and architecture.

“[This]is a cool way for me to explore my more creative side while going to another part of the world because I’ve never left the East Coast before,” Herskovitz said.

Gaining a more well-rounded education is one of the many reasons Zeutenhorst recommends short-term programs to students. In addition, he believes the trips are a unique way to learn.

“What’s great about this experience again is faculty are able to teach students within a real world context in a city center or at a national park,” he said. “Our faculty go to a wide variety of countries and teach a wide variety of subjects, so it really is an interesting opportunity where they do use the world as their classroom.”

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