When the summer rolls around, students across the world rejoice and feel learning loss. After all, it’s a well-earned break from the pressures of academic life, the weather is (hopefully) good and you’re only young once – right?
Wrong. The summer is the perfect chance to follow up with one of your passions and to try to better yourself. Perhaps it’s time to get into shape, or maybe you’re ready to write that novel you’ve been thinking about. In Summer of 69, Bryan Adams had a band and he tried real hard. Jimmy quit and Julie got married but whether they got far or not, they learned about life along the way.
The summer is the perfect time to think about what you want to do with your life and to take steps to achieve it. If you want to be a businessman, get an apprenticeship. If you want to be a musician, form a band. If you want to be a journalist, write stories for the local paper.
You can still hang out with your friends, spend time with family and take a holiday. It’s not difficult to find a balance between continuing your education and enjoying your life, and these tips will help you to do just that.
Get an internship
Signing up for an internship is a great way to develop your skills while picking up valuable on-the-job experience. It can help you to combat the age-old problem of entry level jobs that ask for previous experience, and some employers will even pay for the time that you give to them. Those that don’t will usually be happy to give you a reference in return, and many come with freebies and other perks that can help to sweeten the deal.
College summer camp
Signing up to attend a summer camp is a great way of meeting like-minded people while simultaneously developing your abilities in the field of your choice. Better still, there are niche camps that are designed for specific interest groups, as well as broader camps that have a commitment to sport, music or the arts.
Learn a new language
Learning a new language is useful in a number of ways. It can help to broaden your horizons and to introduce you to new cultures, and it can also come in useful when you’re applying for jobs or going traveling. At worst, it’s another skill to list on your resume, and at best it’s a career choice in itself. Learning a second language is also said to boost brainpower and to slow down the aging process of the mind
Try field trips
This tip applies no matter what you’re interested in. There will always be someone to learn from, and more often than not you’ll be able to go somewhere to see something first-hand. If you’re into art, visit a gallery. If you’re getting into construction, visit an inspiring piece of architecture. If you want to become a programmer, go to a hackathon or an expo. You get the picture.
Teach yourself programming skills
Programmers are always in demand, and college students in particular are in the perfect place to use new technologies to make a little money. Remember, Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook while he was at Harvard. On top of that, programming doesn’t have to be too difficult – there are a huge number of free tutorials out there, and some programming languages are more difficult than others. HTML is easy enough, and it’ll suit you in good stead if you’re in the running for a marketing job.
Watch documentaries and TED Talks on Netflix
You’ve probably noticed by now that you don’t have to make a huge change to your lifestyle to take advantage of these tips. You’re probably watching Netflix already, which means it’s not too tricky to tune into a documentary instead of the latest episode of Orange is the New Black. Documentaries and TED Talks are fun and educational at the same time, so what’s not to love?
Museums are perfect because you can learn from the past and apply it to the future. Better still, combine it with tip four and turn it into a field trip – but if you’re going out of the way to visit something then be sure to let the curator know. They may be able to take you behind the scenes or to tell you things that not many other people know about.
Improve your writing skills
Being able to write fluently in your native language is important, because it’s a useful skill in its own “write” and it helps to make a good first impression. Don’t feel like you need to take a course or write a novel – starting up a blog can be good enough to get you thinking about the words that you use and the impact they have. And, if you plan on learning a new language, make sure that you practice writing it – as well as speaking it and listening to it.
Take an online summer course
You can take an online course on just about anything, which means it’s the perfect opportunity to develop a new talent or to nurture something that inspires you. You can learn to knit, learn to draw or learn to sing. You can learn to make computer games, to rewire a house or to modify cars. Choose wisely.
Learn to do something *artistic* like draw or dance
You don’t have to be Picasso to draw a doodle, and you don’t have to be Hemingway to start a blog. Expressing yourself artistically will help you to think in new ways while teaching you new skills. Even learning to knit or discovering origami will do – in fact, the possibilities are almost endless. Learning something new is important because it helps to give you the learning bug – and if you continue to learn new things throughout your life, all the better.
Listen to educational podcasts
Podcasts are great because you can have them on in the background while you’re driving, cycling or walking. It’s a more passive way of learning, but it’s an efficient use of your time and it can be simultaneously entertaining and educational. Remember that by their very nature, podcasts can be made by just about anyone – which means that the quality varies widely from podcast to podcast.
Improve your speed reading
The average adult reads at a rate of 250 words per minute, but college students read at 300. The quicker you can read, the quicker you can absorb information, and a whole school of thought has evolved around speed reading – with one blog promising to help you to read 300% faster in just 20 minutes. Whether you learn to speed read or whether you learn to read a little faster, it’ll set you in good stead for the rest of your life – and they say that practice makes perfect!
We’re not saying that the summer is all about work, work, work – after all, everyone needs a break, and summer vacations were invented for a reason. In fact, some studies have suggested that taking more time off will make you more productive when you get back to work.
That said, the summer is also the perfect opportunity to develop yourself, whether you’re learning to play a new instrument or whether you’re finally reading through the collected works of William Shakespeare. Only you can decide what the best use of your time is.
Ultimately, the trick is to find a balance. Treat yourself to a holiday if you want to – you deserve it after a busy semester. But when you find yourself sitting around at home, twiddling your thumbs and wondering what to watch next on Netflix, consider opting for a little self-development instead. You won’t regret it.