By SAMANTHA CHOW
With our long-awaited winter break finally here, we can all allow our minds a well-deserved break and take studies off our priority list (not completely maybe unfortunately, but hopefully enough to have a good break). The next month and a half is a blank canvas, filled with opportunities awaiting anything we’d want to do. But maybe you haven’t many ideas to fill up the holiday? If that is the case, here are a couple of suggestions for you to consider!
Research/ Prep for Graduate School
It may sound quite sad, having finally gotten a break from school only to think about future school. But, especially if you’re a 2nd or 3rd year undergraduate student looking to progress to a master's degree soon after graduation, now might be a great time to look into programs you’re interested in and their requirements. This may include needing to take exams such as the GRE or TOEFL/ IELTS exams. If exams are involved, the earlier you start planning, the more chances you allow yourself to get the test scores you’re aiming for! (Good luck with them!)
Start An Internship
Perhaps looking into graduate school isn’t something you want to think about right now. Instead, maybe you’re looking into building your resume. In that case, starting an internship may be a good use of your holiday! Although, maybe you’ll find that opportunities aren’t the easiest to come by, or that you don’t know where to start looking. It may be worth a shot then, to contact a professor involved in your area of interest. You might just get a few pointers to help your search. :)
Maybe, volunteering is more up your alley when you think of building your resume. In that case, why not look for an organization or project you resonate with? Here are a couple of sites to start your search!
An organization working to keep Tokyo area rivers clean: https://www.tokyoriverfriends.org/
A bigger organization providing bilingual volunteering opportunities: https://www.handsontokyo.org/
A site listing various volunteer opportunities (more fluent Japanese might be needed for options listed here): https://activo.jp/tokyo/beginner
Or maybe, all you want to do right now is anything but work, and you want a proper holiday. Taking the time to travel might be what you’re looking for! With Japan filled with a variety of experiences to offer, there is no shortage of places to visit.
If you’re looking to travel at a lower cost , a day trip may fit your bill!
Mount Takao (not too far from Shinjuku) might be worth a visit, with its handful of hiking trails and scenery. There are also attractions like Yakuo Temple and the Takao 599 Museum to enjoy, as well as its specialty food - tororo soba. Cable cars and chairlifts are also available to reach the summit of the mountain, so those who aren’t keen on hiking but still want to visit need not be deterred!
Another suggestion would be to travel to Hakone (Kanagawa Prefecture), and visit Owakudani, the volcanic zone, or take a ride on the Hakone Ropeway! If you like art museums, the museums here such as the Hakone Open Air Museum and the Okada Museum of Art may serve as an additional incentive to visit.
If you are willing to spend a bit more and would like to have a longer trip somewhere, Ashikaga (Tochigi Prefecture) may be a good place to consider if you like nature. There are flowers to be seen in the famous attraction, Ashikaga Flower Park, and also many temples and shrines surrounded by nature to visit!
Alternatively, Oarai (Ibaraki Prefecture) is also another place worth considering. This town offers everything from shopping to entertainment in the form of aquariums and science museums, and interesting specialty foods like ankou nabe (anglerfish nabe, a winter Ibaraki specialty). Tsukuba city may also be a good option for similar attractions, with the added opportunity to visit Mount Tsukuba!
Your Personal Goals & Projects
Last, but definitely not least, this holiday might be a good time for you to finally work on whatever you’ve been putting off during the semester, whether it be learning a new skill or continuing something you’ve already started! If you’re finding it hard to start, here’s a reminder that no progress or improvement can come if there is no start, and because there’s no perfect moment to start, what better time to start than now? (good luck with what you’re working on!)
Thank you for getting to the end of this little article, and I hope you have a fulfilling winter break!