First of all, I want to commend us on completing another academic year! Especially with a global pandemic and an entirely new way of learning, it's been a tough year. My wrists need psychotherapy because of using my laptop too much - how sad is that? Depending on your course and university, we have around four months off which seemed like a blessing at first, but honestly, this vast period of time scared me. That's a lot of time to do nothing or something in. No way am I discrediting universities for giving us that much time off - we need it - but it's a little stressful. But hopefully, through reading this article you'll have a more educated approach on how you could allocate your time this summer. I've spent the past few months devising and outlining my plan, so most of these tips feed into my own. As a university student, this is aimed more at that level of education but it's still relevant to anyone else studying at school.
Fraternize with Family and Friends
I have the fortune of living at home while at university so I've seen my parents at least a few times this academic year, but use the summer to really spend time with loved ones. After university, a lot of us will be moving out for good. Scary, I know. Some of you will have very different relationships with your family than others, but regardless, you'll presumably be seeing a lot less of them so appreciate them whilst you still have them around. I suggest doing activities together; my dad and I have only played chess twice the past year, so we'll be playing more this summer - I hope. With mum, dad, grandma, granddad, aunt, uncle, guardian do something you both love together. Especially you third-year students who are escaping the education system. Don't escape your families just yet.
As for friends, it's always difficult spending time with those who work or study elsewhere. Make an effort to rekindle your friendships and reach out to those who you really want to stay in your life. After university, and even after secondary school it's easy to drift away from people when they aren't in your life every day - admittedly I have friends that I haven't seen in years. Growing older, I've realised, especially being an introvert already, it's harder to have as many friends with a thriving academic, work and anything else agenda. So, the summer could be the perfect time to pick the people that you want to see and do for the coming years.
Being a little bit of a nerd, I love academia, but after months of reading and reading and reading, the last thing anyone really wants is to bring university with them into the summer. I mean any students studying humanities, especially English, there were so many books. For any subject, there's an abundance of things that you'll half-remember in a few years to come and not everything you've read does resonate with the soul. But take the time now to research. What modules are you doing next year? Use your time to ask lecturers about editions, order what you need and start reading the material. If it's possible, take books out of the university library back home for you to read. Anything you can do to lessen the pressure of the following year do it. In September/October, I'll be heading into my third year so I'm attempting to prep for the big dissertation. A lot of courses have reading lists per modules so check out if there's any theory or articles you can read too. If there isn't, I know some lecturers don't update them or put them up until term time, just ask. Especially, if there's part of a module you're really excited about, see if your lecturer has any specific material on the subject. It never hurts to ask. Showing them your enthusiasm is great for future references for academia or the workplace.
Be an Intern
As tempting as it sounds to just sit the summer away, you could use some of that time to arrange an internship. Again, it can be difficult right now but there are still a lot of companies that are offering these opportunities. I've written an article on where to find jobs, so check that out here: https://spiela.co.uk/community/detail/547. Many jobs, internships and placements can be found in similar places so that list should hopefully help. Not listed and most important for students is the university itself. I was fortunate to be accepted for a summer internship with my university, so check wherever you can to see what opportunities are available. If not, your university may help you find ones elsewhere or connect you to a company that offers placements. Any internship, especially those matching your career goals, offer many benefits. They allow you to show off your talents, abilities, ambition and passion that employers often look for. A note to add is that, don't get choked up if you didn't get the one you wanted the most. I applied for an internship with Penguin Books and got rejected, but I found something equally as good, if not better for my career goals. For any form of work you manage to secure, take a moment to congratulate your efforts and know that you'll gain valuable experiences mostly anywhere.
It's not an easy time to acquire paid work, so if you have financial security then volunteering is an excellent way of jazzing up your CV. Where paid where has suffered because of the pandemic, the unpaid certainly hasn't. There are a lot of charities and communities that need support, so how generous would it be to use your skills for the greater good. Voluntary roles are available in all sorts of fields. To find opportunities specific to your area, click here https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus-volunteer-local. The Government website will then allow you to discover different volunteer roles, some you can potentially do from home too! If you're staying in your university town over the summer, perhaps volunteer for your institution. My university has a volunteer charity that has hundreds of different activities to get involved in so find out whether yours does and get involved! If you have a strong interest in art, for example, you could consider volunteering at a gallery during the summer, For anyone taking a gap year before university or afterwards, volunteering offers the opportunity for self-development and the chance to figure out your future. So, not too bad. Depending on where you volunteer, you could end up getting a paid part-time or full-time position there which could help with future studies or financial security. Something that's rather difficult for graduates, especially during a pandemic.
Learn Something New
Watching The Chase every day I'm always learning something new, but there's a lot of resources, materials and courses out there to engage with. Along with your own curiosities, acquiring relevant skills will strengthen future job applications and again prove your passion for the industry you're hoping to enter once you graduate. You could learn anything. For example, if you're interested in pursuing a masters or PHD, researching a field of study and publishing articles, shows that you're invested in that career path. When choosing a skill to develop, take the time to search for your preferred job profile. So, if you thinking of becoming a university lecturer, check out sites such as Prospects or Target Jobs to see what these are. For a lecturing position, one of the skills includes an "expertise in your subject area." Thankfully, through a job profile, we know what specific skills are needed and how to impress in our future hunt for employment. As briefly mentioned, taking short courses, is another great way to learn. Whether you'd like to know more about your academic area of interest or just want to learn something outside of your degree subject, take the initiative to get that chaser knowledge. Some suggestions are EdX and Coursera, but if you can afford to pay in the thousands, Oxford offers a wide range of summer courses. Whatever you learn, these skills will certainly jazz up your CV, help clarify your future career or be a little bit of fun at least.
Pursue Your Hobbies
Even after a challenging two semesters, our hobbies are hopefully still intact or still exist at the very least so start them up again. Finding any form of work in the current climate, despite a lot of industries opening up, especially places for internships, focusing on your hobbies if possible is a great alternative. Hobbies are often a complement to the work we students aim to do. For me, I love writing poetry and cinematography which aligns with a lot of positions in the arts industry. So, who really needs a snazzy internship? I know there's a lot of students out there which have extra-curriculars that don't align as well, but get creative - think of a way to combine them. If you do Law and like horse riding, you could look into animal rights for horse racing. By pursuing interests that mirror your professional goals, then you're letting employers see your passion and dedication to that subject. By showing these traits, you let employers see who you are as a person. It's always better to be an individual rather than just a list of achievements on a CV. Whatever you do, whether it's basketball, building computers, bird watching, baking, reading books or beatboxing, begin.
Give Yourself a Break
Now I don't know how much you have or haven't grafted this year, academically, but it's done and regardless you deserve a break. I have a bad habit of burning myself out; I'm too productive or too busy that I forget I have friends and hobbies. But use the summer break to enjoy all the things that you didn't really have time for. Is there something you've been meaning to do for a while? Are there friends back at home or just anywhere you miss? Or is there somewhere in the UK you've always wanted to go? Please, I ask you, give yourself the time to do it. If you are a type-A personality, taking a much-needed break feels quite shameful - it does for me. I perpetually feel like I need to be doing something or I'm wasting my time; but I shouldn't, you shouldn't, we shouldn't. It's a toxic mentality to have and it needs to stop. The time you take to recharge and recover, whether that be watching films, playing video games or spending days on YouTube, if it's making a positive impact on you then it's not wasted time. For me, I have a difficult third year ahead at university so I'm more likely to break rather than have a break - that applies to all you first years too; you just wait. So, together let's take a break and reward ourselves with time.
I hope this list was useful and at least given some students some words for thought in the next few months. But don't sit this summer out. Give yourself, your CV, your mind and your talents a glow-up and show up to university or school this Autumn ready to excel.