Billie Robinson, 2nd year English and Linguistics student
While at uni, most of us have a break of around 3 months over summer (some have even longer), and every year I find myself asking the same question – what shall I do this summer? While many use their break as an opportunity to work, others go abroad, and some admittedly find themselves rather lost. As I now approach my final year of university, I’m realising how valuable this long period of free time is and how we really should use it to our advantage. So, if you, like me, want to do something productive with your summer holidays – I thought I would outline a few options that may interest you…
Work. Working over summer and actually earning some money for yourself (so you aren’t so dependent on your overdraft or mum and dad) is never a bad idea. I actually spent the summer after finishing my first year doing a summer working season in the French Alps. It gave me the opportunity to meet a tonne of new people, work abroad (!!!) and it kept me busy. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I would always recommend it to anyone as it was a brilliant way to incorporate both work, travel and fun. I can honestly say it taught me so much about myself (cliche, I know, but true), and it did allow me to start my second year of uni with a bit of extra cash and a bunch of new friends from all over the country. Alternatively, you could just work at home (which admittedly, would mean you earn more money) and make paying your own bills the next year a whole lot easier! I do think it’s important to have some time to yourself as well; working all summer can be dreary, and remember – you’ll be going back in September to work again, so don’t blow out too early – it is supposed to be a break after all.
Get an Internship. I think every second year student has some kind of blind panic at some point through the year where they realise that they (usually) only have one year left before they’re released into the big bad world and out of the security of education. Most students after graduating will be wanting to find a job, but more than that – their future career. And truth be told, a degree isn’t enough anymore – we need experience and we need a lot of it. So it’s always best to start early. Many people at uni have no real idea about what they want to do in the future – and I’m definitely one of them – but it’s difficult to really know what job you’d like to do until you’ve tried it. So use this opportunity – apply, apply, apply – although you may reach a lot of dead ends, the likelihood is that if you’re persistent, something will come up. Internships are eye-opening experiences, they might make you realise that a particular career isn’t for you, or it may confirm your suspicions. Either way, you’re getting hands on experience in the real world, potential references and who knows – you may even get a job out of it.
I think another important thing to address here, because I know this occurs to everyone at some point, is where do you even begin to look for experience? The first thing I would always suggest is to ask around, you may have a family member or friend who has a job in that field and they’d be happy to give you a name and email address of someone you can contact – you don’t know until you try. Contact the Careers & Enterprise department and go to their job fairs. Especially in London, many summer internship opportunities are internally offered to students through your university – so it’s definitely worth seeing what’s available.
(See our recent blog Summer time is fast approaching… for more information on how to gain work experience this summer)
I must stress though that it doesn’t always work out. Summer internships can be hard to come by, especially if you’re looking for ones that will run for the duration of summer and are paid. This was unfortunately the case for me – though I tried to find paid experience which would have allowed me to stay at my uni house all of summer, it didn’t work out. However, I did complete three internships throughout my second year (two during summer), which isn’t too bad either. If you’d like to read about my summer internships in more detail (how I got them, where they were and what they entailed etc) please head over to my personal blog for more information.
For me, my internships have confirmed for me what I’d like to strive for in the future. Working in different environments and domains helped me to discover what I want in a career but it was also fun! I was doing magazine and book publishing internships but ended up helping out with university fairs at the Emirates Stadium, getting myself published in a small magazine and also meeting some really inspiring and interesting people (alongside a LOT of free books) – but more importantly, I got 3 more references and something of real substance to write on my CV.
Go on Holiday. As important as I think it is to be productive in your summer break, it’s also important to relax too! You’ve spent the last however-many months in the library or in your little uni room working your socks off, so do take a well deserved break to detox, relax and have fun.
Find a New Hobby. Summer is the perfect time to find something new to get yourself stuck into. It’s three months without the stress of uni and the freedom to do whatever you like. So get stuck in and enjoy yourself, and maybe learn a few new skills – you never know what might be useful next year and there’s nothing worse than coming back and not having any stories to tell your new friends! Why not learn a language? (10 minutes a day on DuoLingo doesn’t hurt anyone) Take up reading? Get fit? Learn some new skills!
Use it as an Opportunity to Read Ahead. Through summer it’s very easy to forget uni exists and to be honest, forget everything you learnt the year prior, so maybe spend an hour or so a week just reading through old notes, reading ahead for next years modules, or just reminding yourself of a few key concepts to help yourself for the next term. But more importantly, productive or not – have fun!
Thanks for reading 🙂