Okay, so you’ve just finished up your first year of college. It was (hopefully) awesome and you (hopefully) learned a lot, but now it’s time for summer. Glorious summer! Throughout middle and high school, summer vacation was always the peak of the year – a time to relax and enjoy the company of old friends without the incessant demands of school.
Now that you’re a college student, though, things can seem a little different. All of a sudden, you might feel pressure from your family, friends, or classmates to use your summer in a certain way. This often manifests itself in the form of pressure to further your career prospects via an internship, fellowship, or job shadowing.
While doing this may be important, it is not the only worthwhile way you can spend your first summer out of college. It is important to remember that it is your summer – not anyone else’s – so what you choose to do with it should be a reflection of the values that are important to you.
When you don’t let any narrative or stereotype limit what you feel you are “supposed” to do with your first summer, you will be more free to make the best choice available to you. There are 3 main ways that you can use this first summer, each of which have merits and drawbacks that I’ll explore below:
1) Summer Job
One classic way to pass the long summer hours is with a summer job. This can take many forms, such as scooping ice cream, being a camp counselor, working as a cashier, and much more. Businesses are always looking for young people to fill positions, so it’s likely that you’ll be able to find some form of work.
These jobs may not pay high wages, but they can be a great source of income, both to chip away at outrageous college debts or to just have some fun money to spend during the summer. They will also add work experience to your resume, and give you real-world skills that can be valuable outside of just that specific job.
Even though the pressure to find elite internships is often excessive, internships can be a valuable use of your time in the summer. Internships can connect you with career opportunities, help you learn what jobs are of interest to you, and give you skills that might be valuable down the road. However, internships are often unpaid, meaning that doing one is likely a long-term, rather than a short-term, investment in yourself. There are some paid internships out there (Go get one if you can!), but these are a rarity.
If possible, combining an internship with a part-time summer job can be a good way to have the best of both worlds – gain career skills while also raising money – but this can sometimes take too much time out of your summer, a time when you should be able to decompress after the rigors of college rather than add to your stress level.
3) Travel and Relaxation
College students are in a unique position, in that even though they are close to the “real world,” they still can put off searching for careers, if only for a little while. One great way to use your youth is to travel with friends or family to see new places or revisit childhood destinations. You’ll meet friends from all over the world in college, and summer is a great time to really see where they come from.
If you don’t have the opportunity to travel, you can also use your summer to completely relax. Without homework or classes, you will have time to read books, go on adventures, and give your brain a well-deserved break. Although this won’t earn you money or directly prepare you for a career, it can help clear you head and put you in a good position to continue learning from, and enjoying, your college experience.
Each of these ways of spending your summer has different values and benefits, so there is no way to definitely rank which one is best. Ultimately, there is no right or wrong answer – anything you choose to do over your summer vacation can work out if you approach it with the right mindset.
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By Aidan Calvelli.