Make the Most of Winter Break

Published: Tues., Dec. 16, 2014; by Derrick White

Derrick White portrait

As a graduate student, the break between semesters can seem very long at the beginning, but once you get into the break, it seems very short. Key to making the most of your break is figuring out what will benefit you the most, whether that’s resting, working, or doing a combination of the two.

From December through February, we'll be featuring stories from our Graduate Ambassadors about how they celebrate the holidays and enjoy the break. Including:

A Costa Rican Christmas
by Adrian Lara
Make the Most of Winter Break
by Derrick White
Chinese New Year
by Xiaoqian (Annie) Ma

Rest during the holidays

Taking a break during the holidays will help you rejuvenate your body and mind. It’ll give you a chance to put your mind on other tasks besides graduate school. One way to take your mind off your work during break is to leave town. This could be a trip to visit family.

Try to leave your work at school! If you’ve been working all semester and you’re in need of a break, it’s important that you leave all writing and research on campus. This will keep you from burning out and give you the energy to get back to work when the new semester begins.

Of course, taking your mind off work is easier said than done. As a graduate student, your work becomes part of your everyday life. Your focus is on completing goals every day, month, and year. As a result, at some point during the break, you’ll get the itch to return to your graduate routine. When you get this feeling, it means that you’ve taken enough time off to rejuvenate your mind and body for the next round of graduate school.

Work during the holidays

While it’s important to get rest, the break also gives you the opportunity to tackle a few of the tasks that you’ve put off during the semester. During the semester, you’re balancing meetings, course work, a teaching assistantship (if you aren’t a graduate assistant), and research. These four activities (which are just the tip of the iceberg) have to be juggled efficiently, so some projects are put on the back burner. This is where working during the break can get you back on track!  For example, the break will give you time to set up multiple experiments.

The break also gives you precious time to complete a grant (or a fellowship) or focus on a qualifying or comprehensive exam. In either case, the break gives you time to work on your literature review, prepare data, and complete several revisions.

When it comes to course work, you may find the break is the best time to complete assignments or exams from the end of the semester.

You can also use the break to research professional development opportunities. For example, you can look for meetings to attend and present your work. These conferences are a great opportunity to make connections that could further your career. 

As for my break plans? I’ll be doing a little work and resting: I’ll be documenting a future experiment, looking for a few conferences to apply to, and catching up on sleep.