Whether it’s your penultimate year, your final year, or (to all you keen newbies reading) your first year, the next academic year officially begins on Monday 24thSeptember 2018. With this last term ending on Friday June 8th, that leaves us with a very generous 107 days free from torturous 9am lectures, uncomfortably silent seminars and countless coursework deadlines. Yet having over 100 days off university is always a bit of a culture shock. Long gone are the brief six week summer holidays during high school, where you could only squeeze in a two week family holiday and the odd night drinking WKDs in a field with your mates.
Summer breaks at university are much different to this well established routine. In some ways it feels like being stuck in limbo. Everyone seems to finish on different dates meaning there is no definitive beginning of the summer celebrations; my final exam was June 4th, which was disgusting compared to my best friend’s final deadline on May 1st. When you’re unlucky enough to be last in your group to finish exams, it can be torturous to watch your friends relaxing in the sun whilst you attempt to subdue a mental breakdown in the library. Yet alternatively, being the first in your group to finish can sometimes be equally as frustrating, as it simply extends the weird limbo by a few extra weeks, which are mostly spent on your own waiting for everyone else to finish.
I’ve barely been off university for a week so far but it has already hit me this week that my summer plans are pretty poor. My original plans to return to work at a Summer Camp unfortunately went awry and despite pouring my heart and soul into several internship applications, I wasn’t even shortlisted for any interviews. If you know me, you’ll know I’m a busy body; I always need something to do with myself or I will find myself descending quickly into madness. Because of this, I’ve frankly spent the last few weeks dreading this summer, daunted by the upcoming three months of being stuck doing nothing particularly interesting, waiting for university to restart so I can feel productive once more. I know I’m not the only one who is daunted by 100 days of sitting and waiting.
But in the interest of positivity and looking on the bright side of things, it’s important to ask ourselves one question: how often in our life will we have 100 free days at our disposal? I never took a gap year and will likely go straight into work after graduating, meaning I may never have another substantial amount of time off until I retire. After university, our working life will likely dictate our personal life, and we’re very unlikely to experience “summer holidays” again (unless some of you are brave enough to become a school teacher). For many of us, this is the last responsibility-free time we’ll have for a while.
Our summer circumstances will differ person to person. I know the majority of first years will be returning home over summer due to their halls tenancy ending in June, yet many of us will be staying in London with private lettings lasting until mid-summer. But regardless of where you are in the world, the next three months should be spent grasping as many opportunities as possible and working on self-improvement. As patronising as it sounds, don’t waste the finite free time you have on Netflix or social media. It is, of course, important to ensure you’re relaxing, and it’s natural to have a few days in bed doing nothing. But as I’ve stressed multiple times, this is probably your last chance to really do what you want. And would you rather look back at a summer holiday filled with TV binge-watching and just relaxing, or would you like to look back at three months of gaining life skills and self-improvement?
Internships are hard to come by but there are plenty of jobs going for temporary work. Undergoing temping work is probably the best suggestion I have for filling this summer- it keeps you productive, you gain experience in a professional environment and it gives you a healthy pay-cheque at the end of your employment. Alternatively, if you’re like me and comfortable in a part-time job, voluntary work is a great way to gain work experience in a sector you may not have initially had any interest in. There are plenty of opportunities listed on QMSU’s volunteering page- you should definitely utilise your SU and grasp these chances while they’re available. Or you could volunteer at a few festivals across summer, giving you the fun of the festival atmosphere for free and a sense of purpose.
I think ultimately, it all boils down to ensuring you aren’t bored over summer, or don’t regret wasting it. Whilst this may be some of the last free time we have, it’s also the last free time we have to really improve ourselves before we enter the world of work. Definitely make sure you have a good time this summer; book a holiday, make travel plans and buy some festival tickets. But also, utilise the time you have. There are plenty of opportunities through temping agencies and volunteering sites, and these are great chances to improve your life skills and gain experience. Maybe set yourself a goal for the end of summer and motivate yourself in your productivity. Whilst right now three months off work may seem like a dream, sooner rather than later, you are going to be bored. So start signing up for things that will keep you nice and busy, and make this summer count.