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Making the Most of Spring Break

Aqua-blue beach with palm trees
Friday, March 16, 2018

Spring Break is upon us, and for many students the first collegiate Spring Break experience is a rite of passage. Spring Break is often a time to travel with friends to Mexico to bask in the sun and enjoy the ocean, hit the snowy slopes of the Rocky Mountains, head overseas to explore a new place, or participate in a University sponsored service-learning trip. Spring Break is also time for students to stay home, catch up on coursework, and prepare for the end of the semester and the upcoming summer months. Regardless of your student’s destination, you can help your Terp make the most of the Spring Break experience.


1.       Keep copies of your student’s important documents (travel itinerary, passport and birth certificate). It is also a good idea for your student to make a copy of their passport to take on the trip, which should be kept in a safe place separate from the passport. This will expedite the replacement of a passport if lost or stolen.

2.       Have contact information for where your student will be, the tour company he or she used, etc. This will help you to reach your Terp in the event of an emergency at home.

3.       Talk seriously with your student about safety issues and what to do in case of an emergency.

Before leaving

  • Secure residence hall room or apartment (make sure all windows and doors are locked!)
  • Unplug appliances


  • Know the location of bags and personal belongings at all times.
  • Keep those with whom you are traveling and those back home informed of any changes to your itinerary.
  • Avoid carrying large amounts of cash and wear inconspicuous clothing.
  • If taking prescription medication, pack enough to last the length of your trip and include a few extra days just in case.
  • Take health insurance card (or a copy) and any special medical information.


  • Students should familiarize themselves with local laws regarding possession of alcohol and other drugs. Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) levels used to determine DUI (Driving Under the Influence) are set at lower readings than in the United States (fewer drinks = higher risk = arrest). Do not get involved in illegal drugs; the penalty in some countries is death.
  • Remind your student to drink responsibly.
    Almost all spring break injuries are due to intoxication.
    Keep your drink in sight at all times.
     Leaving it unattended gives anyone the opportunity to “slip” something into your drink—acid, “roofies,” or other dangerous substances.
    Don’t accept drinks from strangers.
    DO NOT DRIVE AFTER DRINKING. Use a designated driver or choose public transportation.
    If a friend becomes too intoxicated, stay with them; have them sleep on their side to avoid choking.  Call 911 or another emergency number if they do not respond to you.
  • Drinking impairs judgment, which can lead to becoming a victim or perpetrator of a sexual assault.

Personal Safety

  • Studies show that few students who had sex during spring break used condoms, even if a condom was available—and among women, those with higher alcohol consumption were more likely to have been the victim of a sexual assault.
  • Always walk, talk, sit, and act with confidence. Avoid looking like you’re lost.
  • Avoid isolated locations.
  • Don’t walk alone. Use the buddy system. There’s safety in numbers.
    Try to stay around friends, and don’t leave with strangers.
  • Keep new acquaintances and strangers away from your room, and don’t give out any personal information about yourself or anyone else.
  • Contact the proper authorities immediately if you are assaulted or raped.

4.       Develop an agreement with your student for how often they will check-in/communicate with you while away. As parents and family members, it is often helpful (and can provide some relief) to know when you will hear from your loved one.

5.       Visit the U.S. Department of State Website for important information regarding international travel, including Mexico and the Caribbean. 


Spring Break presents a great opportunity for students to engage in what Deanie Kepler, parent liaison at Southern Methodist University, calls “spring cleaning and pruning.”

Spring Cleaning
Just as it works to get our houses in order, it works to get your student's brain focused and ready to plan for next year! Consider these topics:

  • Where they are going to live next year and with whom? If they want to stay in the residence halls they need to complete the Returning Student Agreement online with the Department of Resident Life by midnight on March 30, 2018. Visit the Resident Life Website for more information.
  • Do they want to consider a Study Abroad program?
  • Will they attend a summer term at UMD or a college/university in their hometown? 
  • Are they considering a summer internship? Parents and friends can help students make appropriate contacts within their hometown. Students should also check with the University Career Center to learn about internship opportunities throughout the country.
  • What courses do they want to take next year? Your student should make an appointment with his or her academic advisor to discuss all options.

Spring Pruning
Just as our plants need to be pruned by cutting away branches to encourage fuller growth, our students also need to prune their busy lives!  Encourage your student to take full advantage of campus resources during the final months of the year.

  • Focus on academics—finals will be here before they know it!  The university’s Learning Assistance Service has excellent workshops and resources on how to study, test taking skills, time management, and much more.
  • Pruning for a student becomes "planning"—an activity that will clear the clutter in their lives so fuller growth and potential can take hold.