Make the Most of Your Winter Break

Posted by York & U on December 13, 2018

A YU Perspective | York Community

The holiday season is upon us! Holiday-inspired treats are being sold at your favourite coffee shops, snow is falling (hopefully) and it’s now time to wrap up in a warm blanket and watch a festive movie or TV episode. (My personal favourites are Elf,The Holiday and Home Alone, if you’re looking for suggestions.) However, the Winter term is on the horizon: so how can we make the most of the holiday break while balancing school preparation and relaxation? Well, I have compiled a list that might help.

Feet up on a footrest with a steaming mug of hot chocolate in front of a cozy fire.
It’s important to take time and recharge for the upcoming Winter term.

1. Catch up with old friends

If you go home for the holidays, it’s a good time to get together with old high-school friends to reminisce, catch up with each other and see where life has taken them.

If you live in the GTA and are constricted by your student budget, consider visiting the Toronto Christmas Market! This Distillery District favourite is a festive way to get into the holiday spirit. You can listen to carolers, purchase gifts made by local artisans and enjoy some hot chocolate. The best part? Entry to the market is $6 on weekends and free during the week until 5 p.m. on Friday!

People walking through the Christmas Market in the Distillery District in Toronto, Ontario.
Read the #YUBlog’s “A Commuter’s Guide to York U” for information on getting from York U to the Distillery District!

2. Plan next semester’s schedule

I know, I know, school just ended but it is a good idea to plan out the new term in advance. Map out where all of your classes will be, what textbooks you’ll need to purchase and ensure that your course load will be manageable (yet still adequate to maintain your OSAP eligibility, if you get OSAP).

It’s also a good idea to create a game plan to figure out how you will tackle next term before you get too busy to figure out what needs to be done. Are there academic support services you can access, or chunks of time throughout the week when you can get your assignments done? Identify a few core strategies that you can use to achieve academic success! Check out our previous blog posts, “Your Top 10 York U Resources,” the Learning Commons series and “The Lion Pride Study & Assignment Guide” for more information about York U resources and how to stay on track this holiday season.

Coffee mug next to weekly planner
A clean calendar ready to be marked up in anticipation for the new semester.

3. Catch up on your reading 

If you’re taking some six- or nine-credit classes this year, it’s a good idea to get a jump-start on your readings. You might also have some that need to be completed for the first week back in other courses. In order to avoid falling behind, space your readings out and complete some of them during the break. Curl up with some tea and enjoy the luxury of completing them with time to spare!

On the flip side, catching up on readings isn’t restricted to academic book lists—take a break every now and then to read something that you have been meaning to crack open for ages! I plan on diving into at least two or three new books this holiday break.

Woman reading on her Kindle
Take a break and curl up with your go-to book to recharge during the Winter Break.

4. Bake

What’s a holiday without treats? Not a very good holiday, if you ask me. Take some time to relax and enjoy the sweet, sweet aroma of holiday baking. Apple pie, shortbread and gingerbread are all traditional holiday desserts that are perfect additions to a cozy night at home. They can even double as holiday gifts and a nice snack for any house guests who may stop by during the holiday season!

If you want to dip your toes into some introductory holiday baking, read the #YUBlog’s recent “Holiday Baking on a Student Budget” blog post for some simple, easy and delicious recipes! If you want to watch some how-to baking videos, check out the York U VPS Students’ YUBlog playlist! One of the recipes is a favourite holiday treat of mine—peppermint bark:

5. Volunteer

With some time off, it’s a good opportunity to volunteerand support your community. There are so many ways to give back this holiday break. Donate blood through a local blood drive, volunteer with an organization like the Humane Society, Meals on Wheels or at your local food bank. Helping out those in need and spreading some holiday cheer is a great way to pass your time this holiday break.

6. Enjoy the outdoors

My colleague Sophie has already covered a lot of this in her post “Top Five Outdoor Activities in Toronto,” but this time of year is great for going out and enjoying what the outdoors has to offer. After being stuck inside for months with assignments and studying to do, having a little break to get outside and smell the fresh air is a nice change of pace. There are plenty of activities to do in the outdoors. You could go hiking, to the beach, take a nice walk in the park, or if the weather is colder, you could go ice skating, tobogganing or skiing.

Nathan Philip Square in Toronto decorated for the holiday season.
Nathan Philip Square during the holiday season

7. Make DIY Gifts on a Student Budget

I love holiday shopping for family and friends, but it can be difficult to buy gifts on a student budget. However, good gifts don’t automatically require you to spend large amount of money! In fact, there are many DIY gift ideas which are creative and student-friendly. Here are a few ideas to help you get inspired for the season of gift-giving:

Homemade Treats

Homemade treats are a fun and delicious gift. To spruce up your usual baked goods, you can follow a holiday theme, such as snowman-inspired treats. For those of you who are not bakers, snowman marshmallow skewers are cute and easy to make. All you need are marshmallows, skewers, chocolate candy melts and orange food colouring. After skewering three marshmallows on a stick, microwave the chocolate for 15-second intervals until completely melted. Pour the chocolate into a Ziploc bag and snip a tiny hole at the end. Finish off by piping the features of the snowman with the chocolate (both in brown and orange) and give it time to set.

Four skewers with three marshmallows decorated to look like three-ball snowmen
Marshmallow skewer snowmen are cute and easy to make!

Framed Quotes

Does that special someone have a favourite quote or saying? Frame it! You can find stencils, an appropriate scrapbook background and a frame at your local craft store. From inspirational quotes and common saying to funny messages, you have a lot to choose from!

A few picture frames with signs and designs in them
Customize the words and design to match your friend’s style!

Personalized Mugs

Personalized mugs are not only a great gift idea suited to everyone, but they are also practical! You will need a plain white mug and oil-based paint Sharpie markers. Practice your design on paper first before drawing on the mug. You can also use a stencil to get it just the way you want.

When you are finished with the design, let the mug dry overnight. Bake the mug in the oven at 350°F for around 30 minutes to set your design. Place the mug in the oven before it heats up and let it cool completely before taking it out of the oven in order to avoid cracks.

Grab a white mug and Sharpies to create a personalized mug.

From all of us at the #YUBlog, happy holidays, Lions! Get some much-needed rest to recharge for next semester. The #YUBlog will take a break from December 21- January 2, when we’ll return with brand-new blog posts about all the goings-on at York!

What is your favourite activity to do over the holiday break? Let us know in the comments below or tweet us at @YorkUStudents!

This is an updated version of the post co-written by previous YU Bloggers Elizabeth Naccarato and Shannon Hui.

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