Students looking for something to do during Winter Break will find plenty of exciting activities offered by Harvard and its alumni, on and off campus.

File photo by Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer

Campus & Community

Winter Break recharge

5 min read

University, alumni planning student activities for Winter Break

For many undergraduates, Winter Break (Dec. 22-Jan. 23) will be a welcome opportunity to recharge after the fall semester. At the same time, students looking for something to do between semesters will find plenty of exciting activities offered by Harvard and its alumni, on and off campus.

“Winter Break is a time for students to explore experiences they might not have during the semester — whether that’s looking at careers, performing public service, or simply having the opportunity to learn about something outside of their concentration,” says Harvard College Dean Evelynn Hammonds.

Students who want a glimpse of life after college can shadow the head of Fox Music in Los Angeles for a day, meet alumni who work in international relations in Taiwan, or participate in another of the dozens of unpaid externships set up by Harvard alumni. The Harvard Alumni Association (HAA) hopes to offer more than a hundred of these experiences during Winter Break, as well as a global networking night on Jan. 13 for students and alumni around the world. More information is available in the Crimson Careers area on the Office of Career Services (OCS) website.

Nancy Saunders, associate director of career services for employer relations and internships, says that OCS will offer a full slate of services and activities to undergraduates during Winter Break.

“Although the College will not reopen to students until Jan. 16, OCS will offer appointments either in person or by phone beginning Jan. 3,” she says. “Winter Break is a great time to prepare for the internship search, to get your resume in top shape, and to sharpen your interview skills.”

Saunders says that students may also explore different careers through a number of daylong “treks” in New York and Washington, D.C., in addition to the popular weeklong “Harvardwood” arts, entertainment, and media trek in Los Angeles.

“The treks are open to all undergraduates,” she says. “Many of our students live in or near these cities or can get there by reasonably priced transportation.”

The one-day treks — on Jan. 13 and 14 — will include retail and fashion-themed trips to Bloomingdale’s and Ralph Lauren Polo; arts and publishing-themed visits to Lincoln Center and a prominent New York publishing house; and visits to the Central Intelligence Agency and the U.S. Department of Education. Enrollment for each trip will be limited to 20 students and will cost $20, not including travel to and from the host city. Pre-registration for treks opens on Nov. 15.

Not all undergraduates will head home for Winter Break. A small group of students who have a demonstrated need to be on campus — varsity athletes, senior thesis writers, lab researchers, and international students who are upperclassmen — will remain at Harvard. The College received 1,375 requests to remain in residence this year, and approved nearly 1,300 of them.

Houses and dorms officially reopen to all undergraduates at 9 a.m. on Jan. 16, eight days before the beginning of spring semester. That time will be crammed with programming for both students and faculty, as part of the College’s new Optional Winter Activities Week (OWAW).

“Winter Break is a chance for students to get out of Cambridge,” says Erin Goodman, manager of Winter Break operations for the College. “With OWAW, students can also do things on campus that they would not otherwise be able to do during the semester.”

OWAW programming will be as diverse as students’ interests — from intensive arts workshops to seminars on writing a summer grant application, learning a language, and making sushi. Paul J. McLoughlin II, associate dean of Harvard College and senior adviser to the dean of the College, says that the administration wants to see what type of programming might be possible between terms.

“We’re taking our cues from students,” says McLoughlin. “The activities they propose and their level of participation for OWAW will tell us a lot about what kind of programming they want during Winter Break — and how to structure future Winter Break periods.”

The Undergraduate Council (UC) will fund many student-led programs, but proposals that do not require funding may be entered into the OWAW online portal at any time and will automatically appear on the Harvard Events calendar. Each event should list a contact and be cost-neutral so as to be accessible to all students, although some may include a small fee for materials and supplies.

“We expect a large range of events to take place during OWAW — from speakers to performances to video projects, and everything in between,” says Luis Martinez ’12, chair of the UC’s Finance Committee. “The creativity and enthusiasm of my peers has been amazing and I’m positive that students that are here for OWAW will have some great events and projects to choose from.”

College officials encourage undergraduates to visit the Winter Break, OWAW, and OCS websites for updates on new programs and events, and to go to the OWAW portal to propose any activities of their own. First-year students should also visit the Freshman Dean’s Office website for advice and information that can help them navigate the time off.

Nate Flores ’14 of Indiana says that he’s looking forward to his first Winter Break experience, particularly OWAW.

“It sounds appealing,” he says. “I’d like to volunteer at the Greater Boston Food Bank and also go to the summer grant training sessions at OCS. The treks are a really great idea too. If I can get to New York or Washington, D.C., that’s something I’d like to take advantage of.”