It’s summer! Woo-Hoo! Uni can be a stressful time, so it’s understandable that you may feel relieved that the summer is finally here. When the classes are over and the summer break begins, it’s the most natural feeling to just want to do nothing for a change and to relax completely. You want to catch up with your friends, spend relaxing days without needing to worry about any obligations or vaguely-intellectual activities.
Indeed, this is how many students choose to spend their summer breaks. However, this is not necessarily the best strategy, for many different reasons. First of all, it’s important to stay active during the whole year. Some rest and relaxation is great, but you shouldn’t put your mind to sleep or become sluggish during the summer. It will do you no good and it will make it much more difficult for you to get in mental shape for new uni activities when the summer ends. Sorry to break the bad news to you.
Another reason to stay active during the summer break is that these months can actually help you to make important connections, take a helpful course or gain some work experience. It’s more difficult to find time for these things during the regular uni year, so summer is the perfect time for that. While these activities may not seem like “pure fun and relaxation”, they will pay off a big time in the future.
This is why a summer full of activities is much better than an idle summer. There are many things you can do and pursue during the summer break, so you should engage in them to make the most of your summer. Trust us, you’ll be sending us messages of thanks, bottles of wine, and other tokens of appreciation at the end of it all. Yes. You. Will.
How to Start Your Summer Break
There is no one universal rule on how to spend a great but productive summer break. A general rule of thumb, however, is to give yourself only a few days or a week at most to be idle and “do nothing”. Have some much-needed rest at first. Have some sleep. Do nothing for a few days. Be relaxed and stress-free.
However, it’s important not to let yourself succumb to this state for too long. After a few days (or a week max), you should start with the activities you’ve planned for the summer. As stated before, the brain gets lazy pretty easily, and it’s bad on so many levels. You don’t want that to happen to you.
What Should I Do?
The possibilities are endless, and here are just some of our (excellent) suggestions:
- Get a part-time job. In addition to some cash, you will earn valuable experience and some new skills. Now, you might not like the idea of part time summer jobs and fair enough, they are often tedious and uninteresting. However, they will provide you with some additional skills and they sure look good on your future CV. Plus, jazzing up a boring job title is great fun. Shelf-stacker could become Product Level and Inventory Restocking Assistant.
- Volunteering. Volunteering over the summer is a popular choice for many students. You don’t get paid but you get a chance to gain some valuable experience and see what employers are looking for. Try to aim for something that is going to help you in the long run. Don’t volunteer at a cattery if you plan to become an investment banker!
- Travel. Travelling is a great way to spend a great summer but also to socialize and gain experiences. If you decide to travel abroad, this is a great opportunity to learn about a new culture. Zante, Malia, Ibiza and the like do not count. In fact, if anything they take away from your other experiences due to extended intoxication resulting in memory loss.
- Read. Reading is a great activity to keep your brain active in a fun and relaxing way. Make sure to read books that stretch you make you think about things in a different way. 50 Shades of Grey does not count.
One of the best things you can do during a summer break is to get a part-time job. It may not sound so exciting and it may not be fun per se, but it’s much better than doing nothing for the whole summer. A good thing about a part-time job is that it helps you develop new skills and gain some experience, while still leaving you enough time to socialise and spend relaxing summer moments.
Plus, some part-time jobs may end up being more exciting than you might think. For example, there are many opportunities abroad so you might combine traveling and exploring a new culture with earning some money and gaining a new experience.
The choice of part time summer jobs you can take is sometimes exciting but it’s often dull. Chances are that you will find yourself doing tasks you don’t find inspiring or fun. That is ok: a part time job doesn’t have to be inspiring. If it ends up being inspiring, great. If not, you lose nothing; you can only gain from it. First of all, dull or not, a part time job will help you develop new skills. You may not think that photocopying files or making coffees is particularly valuable, but many studies show that employers actually gain numerous skills at a workplace – some of which they are not fully aware of. Knowing how to deal with office politics is an art. The sooner you start learning, the better.
If nothing else, you will experience a workplace atmosphere and you will be able to observe the way other employees act. Regardless of the quality of people relations at the workplace, you will sure learn a lot.
Not to mention you will develop a valuable work experience. You may think a work experience at a restaurant or data entry job can’t really count as valuable, but you’re wrong. Wherever you work and whatever your duties are, it’s a good work experience. You are growing and developing yourself even if you don’t see it at the moment. Plus, any work experience matters when it comes to CV and future employers. Don’t hesitate to include any part time job on your CV in fears of not being “good” enough. You can present any job, skill or work experience in a positive light. Working as a waiter? You learned how to balance multiple tasks and to develop great communication and customer service skills.
You might even get a chance to volunteer at a company of your dreams or in the sector you are interested in. Part time jobs in these companies may not always be available, so volunteering may open numerous opportunities.
Volunteering looks great on your CV because it demonstrates not only new skills and experience you’ve gained but also show your willingness to dedicate yourself to areas of work you are really interested in even without money compensation. It is also a good way to show that you are a conscious person who cares about numerous issues, in case you choose to volunteer for a non-profit organisation.
Another great thing you can do during a summer break is to travel. It may be costly, but it’s also possible to get great deals and student discounts. Even better, you might be able to combine traveling with a part-time job or volunteering, so you’ll sure get a great summer full of opportunities.
Traveling, especially abroad, is a great way to meet new people and new cultures. This experience is like no other and it will help you in many ways. Traveling also makes you grow and develop as a person. Not only you have to develop great communication skills and to excel at money management, but you’ll also gain certain experiences you wouldn’t be able to gain otherwise. Not to mention that traveling is fun, exciting and will make you memories to last for a lifetime.
Reading is a great way to have some time alone and still make your mind work. It doesn’t have to be serious literature or philosophical studies (though it can be, if that’s what you like); reading will keep your mind engaged and ready for the reading you will face at university.
At the same time, reading or another activity you can do on your own will provide some quiet, relaxing moments in an otherwise vibrant summer schedule. Just like socializing is important, so is the time you spend alone, relaxing and thinking about your plans and things you want to do in the future.
- It’s best to start early. Don’t wait for the summer break to start looking for opportunities. It’s best to have a list of companies or organisations you are interested in (for part time jobs, volunteering and other opportunities) ready before the summer.
- Even better, contact companies and organizations during the school year, present yourself and state that you are interested in working for them over the summer. Based on their replies you will be able to make a list of opportunities so when the summer comes you will be ready and you won’t lose any time on searching for opportunities, which means more time for your part time job or volunteering and also more time for summer relaxation.
- As with part-time jobs, don’t forget to include volunteering on your CV. When you get back to uni you may want to get some help from a Career Development Centre if you are unsure on how to present part time summer jobs and volunteering on your CV. The people in the Centre will not only give you advice on how to include these new experiences but will also help you write them in a way that will present you in the best possible light. This way, you will make your summer experience shine and present your abilities, experiences and skills in a way future employers will find attractive.
- Think about the future. Make plans. It’s not early to start thinking what you want to do with your life and what career path you wish to take. You might use a summer break to figure things out and to find out what truly inspires you and what interests you wish to pursue. You may also take this time to decide on college courses and activities you are interested in.