As summer vacation approaches, many of my friends begin to discuss their plans for break. Unlike Korea and other Asian countries, summer vacation for U.S. high schools lasts for almost three months. Most schools, like mine, take a break from early to mid June through late August. Although winter break in the U.S. is rather short – usually around 3 weeks, summer vacation is long enough for activities such as summer camps, internships, summer school, and volunteer work. As a result, high school students take this opportunity to continue their extracurricular activities or to explore new activities. In contrast, schools in Korea have a short summer break and a longer winter break.
The reason for this difference in academic schedules comes from the difference in academic systems. In the U.S., the new academic year starts in the fall in late August or early September. Since winter break takes place between the first and second semester, vacation lasts for the short duration of a month for academic continuity. Moreover, summer is often better than winter for outdoor extracurricular activities. Using the long vacation, students join summer camps, visit their relatives, and travel in and out of the country.
The new school year in Korea starts in the spring in late February or early March. Since summer vacation divides the first and second semester of a school year, the term is rather short, like the American winter break, to maintain academic continuity. Moreover, since the summer heat is easier to bear than the winter cold, high schools in Korea tend to have a longer winter break and a shorter summer break to provide better academic conditions for students.
Overall, the vacation time allocated in an academic year is approximately one month longer in American schools than Korean schools. In the States, summer is a time for students to relax, to pursue their other interests, and to spend time with family. In Korea, summer is seen as a short break between two halves of the school year. While there may be some difference in the values placed on individual development and leisurely enjoyment, the greatest difference between these two academic calendars stem from the difference of when the academic year starts.
In either case, school vacation is not time given to waste. This is a time given to students to learn things outside their schools and to think beyond the box. This summer, I plan to go back to Korea to visit my family. I also plan to volunteer at an orphanage. If you are a high school student, take this summer vacation as a stepping stone to further develop yourself. Since summer vacation is three months long, there are many opportunities out there for us to try. Whatever dream or plan you have postponed due to a lack of time or courage, why don’t you take the time to pursue it this summer? Enjoy your break!